BWS 14.07.21: Kiran Bhat

Kiran Bhat is a global citizen formed in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, to parents from Southern Karnataka, in India. He has currently traveled to over 130 countries, lived in 18 different places, and speaks 12 languages. He is primarily known as the author of we of the forsaken world… (Iguana Books, 2020), but he has authored books in four foreign languages, and has had his writing published in The Kenyon Review, The Brooklyn Rail, 3:AM Magazine, and several other places. His list of homes is vast, but his heart and spirit always remains in Mumbai, somehow. He is currently traveling around Mexico, but you can find him virtually on @Weltgeist Kiran.

Around the World in 365 Places: Kiran Bhat


BY VEENA RAO*

It was all because of a vision. Then student Kiran Bhat had been visiting a cathedral that is also part synagogue and mosque in Segovia, Spain, when he suddenly realized he wanted to write the narrative of the world. A life of journey and travel led Kiran Bhat to create his fascinating new literary project, Girar. Set in 365 places, Girar, which means ‘to turn’ in Spanish, is essentially the story of Earth and the thousands of cultures on it. Each digital instalment will unfold in a different corner of the planet until the end of 2029. The story itself is a compilation of many stories at once. This is ultimately the story of Mother and Father. They live a settled and suburban life, but their son is gay, and has migrated continents away from them. They yearn for him to be home.

Exploring the Earth as setting comes naturally to this young author who has visited over 132 countries, lived in 18 places around the world, speaks 12 languages and writes in several of them. “Girar is the concept of the world-in-a-book taken to its extreme,” he says in this Q&A.

What better way to travel the world and get a unique glimpse into diverse cultures and communities?

What was the initial spark or thought or impulse that created Girar?

Read this interview to find out more. 


Veena Rao: Girar is a novel concept that unfolds in real-time. Tell us more about it.

Kiran Bhat: Girar is a digital web project, in which people who subscribe to the webpage get stories about an archetypal mother, father, and son being reimagined into a new cultural context and nationality in each installment, between now until the end of 2029. The general gist of the stories is that Son is gay, but his parents have never taken the time to accept it. After a homecoming thanks to COVID turns dramatic, Son once more leaves his parents. The central drama is how the three of them learn to eventually make space for each other after a decade of fighting. At the same time Mother, Father, and Son have very rich exterior lives, and so the novel also explores the many different ways their outward relationships are not only affected by the passing of time, but how the reimagining of the story in a new cultural context in each installment creates a new way to perceive these relationships as a whole.

VR: What made you want to write something like this?

KB: The impulse behind Girar came to me due to a trip I took to Segovia, while I was a junior studying abroad in Madrid. We were visiting a cathedral that was part synagogue and mosque,

learning about the histories of the Visigoths, Jews, and the Moors. In the same way this building collapsed the histories of so many peoples inside of one building, I suddenly started imagining what it would be like to collapse the narrative space of our planet into a novel. It was something akin to a darshana, or a vision. I didn’t know how I would ultimately write this novel, but after spending twelve years of my life travelling, I felt like I started to get this idea of a book that would in fact take place in as many parts of the world as I could imagine. we of the forsaken world… was also an attempt at this, but Girar is the concept of the world-in-a-book taken to its extreme.


VR: What were the challenges of unfolding a narrative as ambitious as this?

KB: For me the biggest challenge of the project has been the web development. I can control my research into other cultures and countries, I can control my narrative arcs and understanding of my characters, and I can control how well I write. What I cannot control is how well the firms that I am paying to transfer this vision onto a webpage are going to do. The world of web development and IT is very different than the world of artistry. Most web developers don’t have much of an aesthetic eye and are only there to code. They don’t necessarily care about your aesthetic demands; they just want to get paid and stop their coding when the hour has ended. So, getting http://www.girar.world up and running has been a lot of work, and sadly it’s work that I can’t control.

Unfortunately, when you try to do something really out of the norm, it’s hard to get it right. There’s just not a lot of infrastructure for global-serialized-novels-told-over-the-Internet, the way that there would be for a traditional print novel. There’s a lot that is hard to anticipate because there’s so few models for what works. And because there’s a lot to get wrong, there’s also a lot of places to stumble, and that ultimately detracts from the reader experience.

I haven’t fully lost hope. I’ve hired a new web team to revamp the project, with hopes of relaunching in August. I do very much believe in the storytelling and world building of the project, and I hope that once the story platform has been improved, my readers can get lost in all of the exciting ways Girar innovates.

VR: Authors traditionally set their novels in one or two places. Girar takes place around the world. Can you talk a little bit about the world as a setting in Girar?


 KB: Well, in reality, because Girar is almost a compilation of many stories ultimately being framed together to tell a greater one, each of the installations, whether set in rural Costa Rica or Hokkaido in Japan, becomes an exercise in scene building. I don’t know if I get each story right, but I try to make sure that with each installment I find a sensitivity reader from that city or culture, and make sure they approve of what I’ve written. There are times I really screw up, but most of the time, they help me find better words to show how people in that country speak, or correct me on slip-ups on body language or place description. I usually try to write out of places that I have at least visited, so I can also draw on my own memories or experiences being in that place. I also mostly make it about my characters, and the experiences they are going through. I think the rich interiority of the worlds that I have created for my characters serves to propel a lot of the pathos, and can make up for even when I don’t necessarily write about a culture well.

As per the world as a setting, that is interesting. I often tell people that I’d like to imagine literature if the source of a story did not come from a community or a nation, but from planet Earth itself. However, the Earth, just like a community or a nation, does not have one singular voice. In reality each person on this planet is their own narrative, with thousands of thousands of experiences which form their sense of being. So, if I were to capture the Earth as a literary concept, I would not be able to base it out of one place. In the same way that our current digital communication networks are fusing milliseconds of thought and being at all of the different nodes of the planet at once, a style that capture the planet would have to be a little bit everywhere. It would have to be like the many heads of the hydra flinging around at once, or the cacophony of a million sounds somehow bleating together into harmony when heard at once.

That is how I view global narrative, and the perspective from which I believe a global aesthetic could be produced.

VR: An author’s perspective of globalization, I am sure, is a bit different from an economist’s perspective. You’ve lived in several countries, speak many languages, and even write in several of them. Girar is the outcome of your travels. Can you talk a little about what globalization means to you?

 KB: It depends. There are many different ways to talk about globalization, some good and some bad. A lot of the globalization of the 90s – McDonalds, global capitalism, etc – were objectively bad for the planet. When I think of my experience with globalization, I think of the Internet, and how it’s created a generation that, no matter born in Kenya or Turkey, Kazakhstan or Argentina, seems to be reacting to a similar way of thinking and feeling. And now the Internet makes us see everything at once when it’s happening. We have information about everywhere in the world whenever we feel like it, we attend digital events partly being hosted in Hong Kong, India, and Canada. People are slowly starting to feel like they belong to one space, which is a global one, and I think that’s the one I want to carve a literature for.

VR: The publishing world is not known to readily embrace change. Do you think the reading world is ready for out-of-the-box reading concepts?

 KB: It’s hard to say. I think readers are used to traditional novels, and this act of reading something serially, and having to pay a nominal amount for it, isn’t something people are used to for novels. For journalism, sure, or for literary journals, sometimes. Ironically, I think that this piecemeal approach of reading a novel works a lot for our hustle-and-bustle lives. I also think it’s exciting to read something set all over the world. While I’d say my work isn’t necessarily for people who want a deep look at a culture, it might spark curiosity in a place that people haven’t thought much about. And then there’s just the narrative of it, the ambition, the rush of finding something new.

So I think it’s hard to generalize. I think some people are, and some people aren’t. It’s mostly about finding the right reader, which I assume is true for any project.

VR: Your first traditionally published novel, we of the forsaken world…, was hailed for its genre-defying originality. How is Girar different in concept, themes, and narrative style?


 KB: Veena, that’s so nice of you to say. 🙂 I think we of the forsaken world… is the inverse of Girar. In we of the forsaken world… I wanted to really exhaust the concept of the multitude. I wanted it to feel like sixteen people speaking out from four varied corners of the world as an attempt to be heard against the static of globalization. The stories of the four regions are quite topical, ranging from sexual trafficking to eve-teasing, from the after-effects of an industrial spill to the destruction of indigenous land from logging. The stories are also told in first person, and are stitched together by poetic interludes interrupting the flow of one narrative and transitioning into another.

For now, Girar is much more seamless and traditional in narration. The installment approach gives every piece a clear beginning, middle, and end. Both are story sequences (ie short stories being framed together to cohere into a novel), but Girar has a much more obvious direction it is going in. I also think Girar is much better storytelling, and gets across what we of the forsaken world… was trying to do in a much clearer form.

But we of the forsaken world… was an attempt to have multiple voices cohere into one aesthetic sound, whereas Girar is certain fixed voices hopping all across the globe, or finding a new form for themselves. So, I definitely think they have a lot in common, but are also quite different.

VR: Do you hope to ultimately take the traditional route for Girar?

KB: Yes! The ultimate goal was to have Girar pieced into a series of multiple books and published in that format. I’m shopping the first book to publishers already. Some are quite eager to see it, so I’m hoping for the best. 🙂

VR: What else are you working on?

KB: I’m taking my first foray into translation currently. I’m currently living in San Cristobal de las Casas, in Chiapas. Chiapas is the territorial stronghold of the Mayan peoples (I say peoples because there was no contingent Mayan civilization, but multiple civilizations and heritages which were called by outsides as the Maya). It’s a place with 12 indigenous languages strongly spoken by its citizens, where Spanish is a second language for most. So, I met a collective of poets here I like. One of my goals is to try to translate their writings in Maya Tsotsil into English using Spanish as a medium. I’ve never translated before so I don’t know how it will go. I am also trying to do a lot of events and cross-collaborations here. One of the beauties of the globalized world is the ability to connect with anyone regardless of physical distance, and so I’m trying to connect indigenous communities here with the indigenous communities of other countries and cultures, with which they are normally not connected. I’d love to see some chapbooks come out of these inter-lingual connections, but we’ll simply have to see how it goes!

VR: Thanks so much for your time. I hope the best for your work.

KB: Same!

* Veena Rao was born and raised in India but now calls Atlanta home. A journalist by profession, she is the founding editor and publisher of NRI Pulse, a popular South Asian newspaper. She is recognized by the Limca Book of Records as the first Indian woman to edit and publish a newspaper outside of India. Purple Lotus, her debut novel, is a Georgia Author of the Year 2021 Finalist and an Award-Winning Finalist in the International Book Awards. Her manuscript for Purple Lotus won the She Writes Press and SparkPress Toward Equality in Publishing (STEP) scholarship in 2019.

Kiran Bhavisits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Kamila RinaPrakash Krishnanand Carrianne Leung . Our guest speaker Sonia Vaillant will talk to us about, “Audio books 101”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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BWS 14.07.21: Carrianne Leung

Carrianne Leung is a fiction writer and educator. Her debut novel, The Wondrous Woo was shortlisted for the 2014 Toronto Book Awards. Her collection of linked stories, That Time I Loved You was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by CBC, shortlisted for the Toronto Book Awards 2019, long listed for Canada Reads 2019 and awarded the Danuta Gleed Literary Award 2019. She is currently working on a new novel, titled The After.

In 2019, I had the great pleasure of being the Writer in Residence at University of Toronto Scarborough. At the end of my term there, I was asked to speak about the “Creative Life”. I came up with this list and hope that it continues to be helpful, supportive, and funny for those of us who are committed to a writing practice. This was first published by Open Book in 2019.

The Creative Life

I was asked to give a keynote address at the launch of the student literary journal, Scarborough Fair at the University of Toronto Scarborough. The theme was “The Creative Life”. As their Writer in Residence, I wanted to give the students something practical. I didn’t want to wax poetic about a life that was frankly on most days, also kicking my ass.

So, instead of a talk, I shared a list of 70 things that I have learned so far as a writer.  Do not worry! The 70 are not so daunting, and nothing about this is prescriptive. I suppose this is the thing about having a creative life – there is no simple formula for you to follow. In the process of writing this list, I also crowd-sourced some of my writer friends, so I included their advice too. They are just tips for emerging writers that hopefully, will accompany them well along their journey.

  1. Carry a notebook with you at all time. You can get very nice ones at Dollarama for $1.25. If you feel very precious about it, you can get a Moleskin for $30. But I assure you – your choice will not determine whether you produce $1.25 writing or $30 dollar. Go for Dollarama.
  2. Canisia Lubrin told me she once wrote on a banana leaf. She wants me to tell you, moleskin or no skin, just write.
  3. Forget the paper or banana leaf, the writing instrument is probably more important. I like those fine-liners that glide across the paper with hardly any drag, making that perfect little scratchy sound. That noise makes me feel serious. But in a crunch, anything will do. I have also used eyeliner, lipstick, kids’ crayon and soya sauce. The soya sauce was at a wedding banquet, and I dipped a chopstick in it like an inkwell. It worked ok, but the napkin that I used was a bit too eager for the stain, so it came out quite blurred.
  4. Now that you have spent enough hours procrastinating and looking for the perfect tools, you need to carry these items with you at all time. While you may prefer writing on a laptop, inspiration will hit you anytime and anywhere – standing in that long line at Tim Horton’s, riding the bus to campus, sitting on the toilet, even sleeping. You want to be ready to net all the words, images, ideas to develop more fully later. Also, the weight of those writing instruments in your bag will remind you of your purpose – to write.
  5. Consider the notes and fragments you write as evidence of a mind/heart/spirit wide-awake.
  6. I get asked a lot of questions, but people never ask the most basic one: Why do you write? You know it ain’t for the money. My friends hear me whine enough about how hard it is. So why? Here is the reason: I write because I am in love with the world and compelled to express this through language. Consider your own reasons and hang on to them as touchstones.
  7. I know for some of you, writing is survival. You write to see yourself emerge because nothing else shows you that you really exist and matter. I see you.
  8. Tell the truth even when you write fiction.
  9. Get rid of the romantic notions of writers who sit in Parisien garrets or New York lofts penning scripts that flow effortlessly out of feather quills or Macbook Airs. Writing looks more like this for me – bed head, sweat pants, coffee stains and the occasional howl of anguish.
  10. Most of the time writing is a slog. Expect slog. Writing is not for the faint of heart, but remember, you have a lion of one.
  11. Read. Reading will teach you how to write. Reading is also its own form of work and creativity. Excel at it.
  12. Reading for resonance is great. When you connect with something, you feel seen. But also read for dissonance. Dissonance will teach you about what you can’t yet see.
  13. If there are books you love, hold them close to you. Reach for them when you need inspiration. When I am writing, I stop reading books except for a select few that I reach for as reminder of how utterly magnificent the written word can be. Never stop marveling at art.
  14. Study writers you love. Deconstruct their texts to learn their particular mastery.
  15. But also, don’t try to be like them. Be you. There is only one you, and we need your stories and poetry and narratives. No one else can give that to us.
  16. Show up. When people learn that I am a writer, so many of them tell me that they have a book or two in them. I am sure they do. BUT. It’s not a book if it hasn’t been written. Writing is labour and attention and time. The difference between wanting to write and having written is in the showing up.
  17. Don’t fret over that thing called, “talent” too much. Just do the work. Remember, the most accomplished writers are probably also facing the slog this very minute, dressed in ripped PJs and sporting their own bed head. You can be sure that they are doing the work.
  18.  There is no wasted writing even if the majority of what you write will never make it to the final pages. It may take you 50 pages before you reach the one that gives you the beginning of the story. Still, the 50 were necessary.
  19. You don’t have to completely kill your darlings. Stuff the pages that don’t make it to the final draft in a folder on your laptop. Name it. I call mine the Parking Lot. Those storylines and that minor character or that beautiful imagery may get to live another day. If those darlings spark joy, it’s ok with Marie Kondo and it’s ok with me.
  20. Move if you can. Go outside and walk. Walking does something interesting and rhythmic with your brain. Or point your toes in your favourite direction or rotating your wrists.  Remind yourself that you are a body.
  21. Coming to voice is in the process. You have to keep writing to keep learning how.Cherie bookcase
  22. I heard Cherie Dimaline once say that writing is a kind of magic. There will be moments when you will be elevated. You will feel a kind of electricity that is only reserved for those who dare to be creative. Hold on to those moments and have faith that magic will touch you again when you doubt.
  23. In fact, maybe the craft of magic and the craft of writing are not so dissimilar. Both are going to require hours of mistakes and failures to make perfect. Everybody loves a magic show and want to be a magician, but you know that what happens behind the scene is what makes what happens on the stage possible.
  24. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube will not write your essay, story or poem for you. As far as I know, there is no app for that. Shut it down when you write.  Solitude is part of a writing life.
  25. There is a host of fears that comes with living on the page. The fear may come at the beginning, it can appear in the middle, or it can come with having written. If you are afraid, you are probably doing it right. Writing can be terrifying.
  26. Along with fear, other feelings will arise. Let the feelings come. There are no negative feelings or positive feelings. They are just feelings. Consider them all your teachers and write with them and through them.
  27. Be humble.
  28. You are not a machine. Productivity means different things when considering creative work. Reject the neoliberal definition of it and re-define what being productive means for you.
  29. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think it’s an overgeneralized term that may mask what is really happening. Are you feeling tired? Hungry? Stressed out because you don’t know if you’ll make rent? Are you scared of the blank page? Are you consumed by self-doubt and worried your work will be “no good”? Are you constantly thinking about who will read it and how they will react? Are you writing to win the Giller, the Griffin or even the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature? All these things would trip someone up, but I wouldn’t call them writer’s block. Know with more exactness what is happening for you, and then start addressing it.
  30. Catherine Hernandez says, stop trying to prove you are a writer and just tell us the story.
  31. Sharon Bala says if you write, you’re a writer. Stop using the verb to describe yourself, take ownership of the noun!
  32. Even when you are not pen to page, you are still writing. Notice things in your surrounding; be curious about people, even those who annoy you. Learn the names of flowers and cloud formations. Read a newspaper, talk to cats, share a meal with a pigeon. Lean on a tree and ask it what it’s like being a tree. Invite things in. You will produce richer writing. And you will have a richer life.
  33. Being curious is one of our most useful traits. I hope I never lose my laptop because my search history would scare the hell of out of someone.
  34. Janie Chang says FINISH something. If you don’t finish something, all you have is potential, and an agent can’t sell potential.
  35. Open yourself to the human experience because whatever you write is a meditation on what it means to be human. Yes, even if you are writing about werewolves and aliens and teenage vampires.
  36. While craft is muscle building, there are moments of mystery in the creative process. Some people call it a muse, inspiration, even god. When I told Lee Maracle that sometimes I feel haunted, she said, of course. Writing is when her ancestors come to tell stories. So now, I accept that something sacred and divine is also at play.
  37. There will be ghosts too. Don’t be afraid. They just want to talk.
  38. Protect your writing time. It is as important as going to the dentist, showing up for a shift at work, going to class. Do not forsake it.
  39. Feedback will come in all forms. Some people may love your work while others will not. If everybody loved you, that would just be weird. You are not writing for everybody, and that is OK.
  40. I say this even as one bad reader’s review will feel like a knife in my heart making me forget all the good reviews and burrito myself in my duvet …. We do not have to be made of armor.
  41. Invest in a really good duvet.Leung, Hernandez, Chariandy
  42. Allow yourself to write shit. Seriously, write the shittiest shit you can. Writer, Anne Lamott says you must especially strive to write shitty first drafts. Shit makes things grow. Look at manure.
  43. You will feel vulnerable while receiving feedback. Take everything in and decide what you need and what you don’t. Some feedback will hit you hard. Some may feel unfair. All of it will strengthen your work because it will clarify your intentions.
  44. You may have created the work, but you are NOT your work. Learn to have a critical distance or else you will take everything personally as a comment on you and not be able to move on with using feedback as a writer.
  45. Not everybody will “get” it. Is it your writing that stands in the way of them understanding it? Or is it something else? Is it something about the position of where you are as a differently embodied person? Is it your gender, your race, your sexuality, your disability, your poverty? Your truth? That is another can of worms. If you are writing from a marginalized place, you may face walls. Learn to discern what feedback will help you and what is attempting to silence you. Always, always, hold on to the integrity of your own truth, and let that guide your process.
  46. I once had a mentor who refused to email and instead sent me his feedback on lavender pages of paper that smelled strangely of cinnamon. On these purple pages, he ripped my work to shreds, and I stopped writing for a while. I cried, I thought it was time to shelf my dreams and I tried to let it go. But I couldn’t. Much later, I read those pages again and did not find anything helpful or constructive in them. That was when I realized that some people are just assholes.
  47. There are conventions. You are allowed to break them, but do it well and no one will get on your case about it.  
  48. My first draft is for myself. You must allow yourself to be the gravitational force. Let the sun revolve around you. In the moment of fresh writing, you are the creator. Make your own weather.
  49. In the next draft, I write for the people I love. After that, I move onto strangers who I may possibly love if I knew them.
  50. The question of audience is not as cut and dry as you think. You will have people who you think should love your work who won’t and people you would never expect to connect with it, do.
  51. Also, don’t underestimate readers. They do not need everything spelled out for them. What you leave out is as important as what you put in. Leave the text porous because you do not know how a reader will enter it.
  52. Do not hover like a helicopter parent.  The writing will have to stand-alone sometime.
  53. When you publish your work, let it go. Let it have other lives as it is meant to with other people. They may not read it as you intend, but they will be read it as to how they need to. I accept that my books have lives after me and don’t truly belong to me anymore.
  54. If you embark on creative work, you will experience failure. Fail well. Fail spectacularly. David Chariandy writes like this. He relies on failing in order to get it right in the meticulous revisions.
  55. Do not forget about joy. I see a lot of emerging writers who seem to be in much pain while writing. Writing is painful sometimes, but it’s also an incredible joy. Please do not forget that.
  56. Sometimes, the story is stronger than you. Get out of its way and let it happen. Let the story have the space to find itself before you pre-judge it or give up. It may not take the shape you assumed it would or your characters will behave in ways you didn’t intend. But let it happen anyway. Marlon James talks about this as a duty to story. We serve the story. The story does not serve us.Marlon James
  57. The page is one of the few places where I can be free. That kind of self-sovereignty is rare. We should all be chasing our freedoms. Don’t let anyone take that away from you, including yourself.
  58. It’s not a race. You clock your own time. What the person beside you is doing is inconsequential to your own journey. Stay in your lane. You will get jealous and punch pillows because “other writers” are getting things done faster or more successfully than you. Give yourself a minute to feel the feels.  Go to the duvet, if you have to. When the rage has passed, congratulate them on their publication, their award or their new dog. There is a time and space for all of us. Eat a bowl of noodles followed by a bag of chips. That works for me.
  59. While it’s not a race, persistence is key. It’s not speed. It’s the audacity and patience and craft that matter. 
  60. Don’t worry about the imposter syndrome. We all have it.
  61. There will be good days and bad days in writing. Protect your mind and heart on the bad days. They will pass.
  62. To say, I am a writer is not to inhabit an identity. It’s a practice just like other practices. Don’t be too precious about it. It doesn’t make us any better or worse than anyone else. But know you have a special responsibility with words, to be artful and concise with language, to reflect back to people what you see. Honour that purpose.
  63. Most of us are not full-time writers. Lindsay Wong wants me to tell you it’s hard. If this will be your profession, know that you will always have to have a side hustle, a day job, be a member of the gig economy. It’s not a stable life, but its rewards can be measured by other metrics.
  64. You may find sometime in your life that you will work in a job that feels like it’s slowly killing your soul. You may feel too stressed or distracted to be a creator. You may think to yourself – “Why am I doing this? I should be a writer!” Have faith. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Keep carrying your notebook even if you can’t write in it every day. You do what you need to do to survive, and know that your words are waiting if you choose to pick up the pen again. Your readers will be here when you are ready.
  65. I have done a lot of things for pay besides from writing, and I still do. ALL of these things have contributed to my life as a writer. Even those jobs, experiences, relationships that sucked all poetry and beauty out of me made me a writer too.
  66. Go to literary events. Meet people. This does not mean you have to schmooze or “network”. People who attend literary things are some of the nicest folks you will meet. There are a bazillion things happening every week in the city. Soak up the writerly vibe. I guarantee that you will feel jazzed to write.
  67. If there is an open mic, jump on it. It’s a cheaper adrenalin rush than riding the rollercoaster at Wonderland and a lower risk than confessing love to your crush.
  68. Be generous. We do much of this work alone, but this does not mean that it doesn’t take a village. Be a good friend to other writers, be an ally, a contemporary, a mentor, a student and a reader. Build a sustainable community and uplift each other.
  69. Getting published is hard. If you don’t get published, it’s not always a comment on the quality of your work. There is a constellation of reasons why your work was not chosen. Maybe a particular editor didn’t connect with your work or it wasn’t a good fit with that lit magazine. Whatever the reason, know that this is just part of a writer’s life and rejections are a badge of honour. It means you did the work, you showed up, and you put it out there. There will be a next time and a time after that and even one after that. Just keep writing.
  70. Publishing will not solve all your problems, but I hope it makes you proud.
  71. Remember yourself as the reader. Think of what other writers’ work have meant to you – they made you laugh, they soothed, they expanded your mind to possibilities when you thought there was nothing left to discover. Don’t underestimate that your words will land where they need to. It is a worthy thing that we do when we endeavor to do the same for others.
  72. We create because we love something. Let love drive you. You may be thinking, OMG, Carrianne, how cheesy! You mentioned love so many times already! But listen, I’m not talking about some cheap Taylor Swift kind of love. I’m talking about love that swoops and thrums and heals. I’m talking about revolutionary love. Radical love. Deep and wide and expansive love. I believe in literature and its possibilities. I also believe in love.

The world is on fire. Whatever you write, whatever you do, I ask please, push love forward. Shift, conjure, manifest and make a good place, a better place with your words. And then, love the world some more.

Carrianne Leung, visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Kamila Rina, Prakash Krishnanand Kiran Bhat. Our guest speaker Sonia Vaillant will talk to us about, “Audio books 101”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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BWS 14.07.21: Prakash Krishnan

Prakash Krishnan is an artist-researcher and cultural worker based in Montreal. He writes and publishes primarily in the genres of contemporary art and media criticism but occasionally forays into comedy and personal essay. He dabbles also in film, audio, and performance, and is the co-host of the weekly, anti-colonial podcast, Do The Kids Know.  

Ahead of his appearance on our virtual stage, Prakash shares the following media excerpts that comprise his contribution to Taking to Each Other: A Collective Sounding Project

Talking to Each Other is a multi-media, collaborative research-creation project directed by Simone Lucas, with Access in the Making Lab (AIM) and the Feminist Media Studio (FMS), in partnership with Accessibilize Montreal and Suoni Per Il Popolo. The project description can be read in full here.

For some context, I am a member of both AIM and FMS, two labs that share the use of one newly-acquired sound recording booth. Following my scholarly, artistic, and activist work around the politicization of soundscape and accessible description practices, I explored the use of poetic/performance aesthetics to describe the im/material components of the booth and its environment. The video includes a short descriptions of the booth followed by a narrated “production note” which provides more context for the piece. 

Audio Description: Sound Booth at the Feminist Media Studio.

The full suite of capsules within the Talking to Each Other project was streamed online at the Suoni Per Il Popolo festival (June 6, 2021) and was followed by a panel discussion featuring the project participants. 

An extract of my panel participation can be found here where I address the following questions: 

  • How is the form (audio, tech, subjects) in a transpiring relationship with the content of the piece? How is your creative process both an aesthetic, an ethic and a politic?
  • How can the technology itself reveal a network of relations that reflects on intersectional notions of access?
  • Can our collective research-creation process think through and emerge with any solutions towards making this booth more accessible? 

The full live stream of all videos as well as the panel can be found here. Please note, that due to technical issues, the audio during the much of the panel is not very audible and the audio and video are not synched. The panel, in its entirety, begins at 1:02:10. 

Prakash Krishnan,visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Kamila Rina, Carrianne Leungand Kiran Bhat. Our guest speaker Sonia Vaillant will talk to us about, “Audio books 101”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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BWS 14.07.21: Kamila Rina

Kamila Rina is an autistic and multi-disabled immigrant Jewish non-binary bi demi-ace poet and a sexuality/gender/disability educator, living in Treaty 13 territory. They have been published internationally, including in Room MagazineBreath & ShadowMonsteringDeaf Poets SocietyWe Have Come FarCarousel, AugurFrondMary, and Queer Out There.  Find them at KamilaRina.com.

My marvellous friend, the award-winning writer Jade Wallace interviewed me this week from 4 hours away (so, via email) about my writing career.

The Past

Jade: What has kept you writing over the years?

Kamila: The first answer that occurs to me here is: tenacity.  Not tenacity as in: making it a priority to write, even when life is shit — but: trying to survive life being frequently shit, by all means necessary, which often includes writing.

I started writing poems when I was a sad, lonely, and abused eight-year-old, whose double weirdness as a traumatised + autistic child put them achingly out of touch and mutual comprehension with their peers.  Writing brought me a sense of purpose, structure, emotional containment, and a lot of positive feedback from outsiders.  My language arts teacher started keeping a file of my poems and making inquiries with poetry book publishers on my behalf; that was a hell of a lot of validation.  Then we immigrated from Poland to Canada, and I stopped writing — I had no audience for any new work in Polish, and at the time English seemed to me a very pedestrian language, quite unsuited to poetry. Even when used to only translate my poems, English seemed to impoverish them.  So I put ‘writing poems’ in the box of ‘things my immigration experience has cost me’ and closed the lid.

But when new hard things happened, I needed to write again.  At first my poems were quite rough, and I only used them to help me survive, to bleed my distress or intensity onto the page.  But one day I brought that kind of ‘survival poem’ in to my therapist, who said it was the best piece she’d seen from me, and maybe I should get it published?  I had finally somehow grasped the art of being poetic in English.  I date becoming a working writer back to that moment.  I do, still, write to cope when things are hard.  Last week someone in my life died, and I’ve written 2 poems so far, and more will come.  The writing helps, hugely, to slowly make sense of, or make peace with, the unbearable and the unexplainable.

Jade: Of all the poems you have written, tell me about the one of which you are most proud.

Kamila: I would say both “Anaphylaxis, Heartbreak, and Other Oxygen-Stealing Disasters” and “Stagger” — and for the same reason.  I’d been trying to write those very poems for years — one comparing my experiences of anaphylaxis and heartbreak, covering the things they have in common (spoiler: they have a lot in common); the other trying to combine: disability, being non-binary in public, vulnerability, and the sexual harassment I experience when I am visibly disabled and coercively feminised — all in one piece.   I managed to fail a lot along the way; there were so many unsuccessful versions of both poems.  So I had Such a Sense of Accomplishment when I finally produced them in a way that worked.  Incidentally, despite how hard I kept failing along the way, the versions that finally succeeded seem…kind of great?  I’m so ridiculously proud not just of succeeding at those pieces, but also of the quality of work they ended up being.  (I submitted AHAOOSD in the writing sample for all 3 writing grants I was awarded over the last year.)
 

The Present

Jade: What would you most like people to know about you as a writer?

Kamila: That I write what I know.  That everything I say comes from my own, often tangled, often visceral, experience.  And that I write to keep the reader company, not to teach them anything (as some poets are credited with doing).  I am not particularly wise.  I am figuring my shit out as I’m writing; it’s an act of containment and insight and pattern-spotting and self-calming, not of conferring lessons.  But I am great at keeping folks company, especially if they are bumbling through life as I have been, especially if they have struggled with what I have.

Jade: Writers are often asked for the best writing advice they have ever received, but good advice is often circumstantial, so I’ll ask you a different question: what writing advice is most useful to you right now?

Kamila: Ooooh, good question!  I’ve recently taken a bunch of online poetry-writing classes with Ellen Bass (super highly recommended! and Ellen offers a real sliding scale to struggling writers), and the guidelines I am currently most benefiting from, that I collected at those classes, are:


1. No piece of writing is wasted.  If you’ve tried to write the same poem 7 or 12 times now, over a period of 40 years maybe even (Ellen has a story about that!), those efforts are not pointless.  You don’t yet have the writing muscles to manage the task you are attempting; those failed poems are helping you grow those muscles.  Don’t let shame or disappointment spook you into giving up.

2. It’s always better to overwrite than to restrict yourself at the drafting stage.  Throw everything into your poem that you want to: the kitchen sink, your grandma Genia, the pangolins you’ve been researching, the way the sun hit your ex’s face on your first date.  You can always take them out later — but in the meantime you don’t know where those disparate pieces might take you.  If you remove everything that doesn’t seem to fit now, you might be impoverishing your poem and stunting its growth.

3. In order to improve at writing poetry, you have to read a lot of poetry.  I’ve always considered reading poetry a soul-nourishing (and occasionally indulgent) experience, but now I also see it as (necessary) homework.  And the weeks when I read a lot of other people’s poems, I also draft more work myself!  Both because their work inspires me — “yes I also want to write about this topic, or about this other thing that this tangentially reminds me of!” — and also because it teaches me, by example, skills in writing & choosing & imagination — “oooh, I didn’t know you could write about this subject this way?!  what if I write about this other thing in this other unusual way??  also, wow neat word, must go look up.”

The Future

Jade: What is a writing project you have always wanted to do but have not yet gotten around to?

Kamila: I wouldn’t say ‘always’ — I think my project-planning abilities are lagging behind my writing skills, and any ambitious plans are recent — but lately I’ve been wanting to write multilingual patchwork poems.  I can write in 6 languages.  Not all of them fluently, mind you, but all enough for me to be enchanted by some words or expressions in them, to admire the language for its unique style and personality.  I love the bluntness of Yiddish, the extra-ness of French, the way Russian abjures the verb ‘to be’ in the present tense.  And I’ve long been admiring the way some multilingual writers include untranslated words from another language in their poems, in ways that, if you speak that language, enrich the poem, but if you don’t, the poem still isn’t wasted on you.  And I’m wondering about trying to write poems that include several ‘visiting languages’ at the same time: what would that be like?  How would I construct a piece like that to still be comprehensible to English-speaking audiences?  How can I get those languages to, with just a few words, contribute their unique personalities to the poem?

Jade: How do you hope your writing will change over time?

Kamila: I think my hopes for my writing are the same as my hopes for getting older: I hope one day I am grown enough and sturdy enough that there is nothing I’m not able or willing to say.  There are things I currently can’t write about, because I don’t yet have the skill or the imagination — and things I don’t know how to write about, because of trying to protect privacy (my own or others), or not wanting the poem to be hijacked by the inclusion of unusual or horrific details, or because the subject matter seems ugly or pedestrian or trivial.  So I aspire one day to be able to literally write about anything, and make it meaningful and relatable and companionable (but probably not ‘wise’), while still honouring emotional limits and boundaries and my own sense of style and creativity. 

Cheryl Wheeler, a queer folk singer-songwriter, once wrote a lovely, amusing song about “Cow-Patterned Clothes”, at the request of attendees at a song-writing conference.  Anne Sexton described having diarrhea as a small child in a poem.  Sonnet L’Abbé used a Shakespeare sonnet as a scaffold to share a tender questioning of their gender.  They are my role models :).

Kamila Rina visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Prakash KrishnanCarrianne Leungand Kiran Bhat. Our guest speaker Sonia Vaillant will talk to us about, “Audio books 101”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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Brockton Writers Series 14.07.21

Wednesday, July 14, 2021 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Kamila Rina

Prakash Krishnan

Carrianne Leung

Kiran Bhat

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

The reading is PWYC (suggested $3-$5) and features a Q&A with the writers afterward. Books are available for sale.

 If you’d like to donate, please do so here.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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GUEST SPEAKER

“Audiobooks 101”

Sonia Vaillant is the Manager of Audio Production with Penguin Random House Canada, where she helped build and develop the audiobook program from the ground up and has produced over 125 audiobooks. She has a background in both audio and theatre production and will never be able to narrow down her favourite book, despite her best efforts. She loves cooking, gardening, and hanging out with her dog when she is not busy reading.

READERS

Kamila Rina is an autistic and multi-disabled immigrant Jewish non-binary bi demi-ace poet and a sexuality/gender/disability educator, living in Treaty 13 territory. They have been published internationally, including in Room Magazine, Breath & Shadow, Monstering, Deaf Poets Society, We Have Come Far, Carousel, Augur, Frond, Mary, and Queer Out There.  Find them at KamilaRina.com.

Prakash Krishnan is an artist-researcher and cultural worker based in Montreal. He writes and publishes primarily in the genres of contemporary art and media criticism but occasionally forays into comedy and personal essay. He dabbles also in film, audio, and performance, and is the co-host of the weekly, anti-colonial podcast, Do The Kids Know.  

Carrianne Leung is a fiction writer and educator. Her debut novel, The Wondrous Woo was shortlisted for the 2014 Toronto Book Awards. Her collection of linked stories, That Time I Loved You was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by CBC, shortlisted for the Toronto Book Awards 2019, long listed for Canada Reads 2019 and awarded the Danuta Gleed Literary Award 2019. She is currently working on a new novel, titled The After.

Kiran Bhat is a global citizen formed in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, to parents from Southern Karnataka, in India. He has currently traveled to over 130 countries, lived in 18 different places, and speaks 12 languages. He is primarily known as the author of we of the forsaken world… (Iguana Books, 2020), but he has authored books in four foreign languages, and has had his writing published in The Kenyon Review, The Brooklyn Rail, 3:AM Magazine, and several other places. His list of homes is vast, but his heart and spirit always remains in Mumbai, somehow. He is currently traveling around Mexico, but you can find him virtually on @Weltgeist Kiran.

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BWS 12.05.21 report: “Screenwriting versus Prose” with Tricia Fish

Tricia Fish is a Canadian writer who studied art; she is best known for her debut comedy feature inspired by her youth in Cape Breton – “New Waterford Girl”, nominated for seven Genies. She writes features, shorts, and television; her new series is in development with Sienna Films.

Today I took a class with Alexander Chee, who teaches at Dartmouth and is the author of “Queen of the Night” and “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel”.  Chee is a fiction writer, poet, journalist, and reviewer whose essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, T Magazine, Tin House, Slate, Guernica, and Out, among others. After an inspiring zoom session dense with literary theory and examples of autobiographical fiction, Chee, who wore a black t-shirt decorated with an anchor and sipped on hot tea “to counter the hot day” in Vermont, fielded chat questions. He recommended a few strategies writers can use to try to get unstuck, acknowledging the pandemic has created in many writers a sense of being in a rut, of plowing away at the same thing for too long, and subsequently losing energy. Chee suggested the pedestrian tricks of stepping away from your desk to do a couple of push-ups, or (his preference) karate kicks around the living room. Sometimes, Chee confessed, he changed the font and the margins and pretended what he was writing was a completely different book. He also suggested writing in a form that is alien or new to you. At this point Chee began to use his hands and seemed to sit up in his chair. Chee revealed that he recently took a TV writing class, which he loved. He chose to write a spec script for the opening episode of season four of Westworld. I was shocked. He had fun, he said, and he found it interesting to write within the very formal constraints of TV Writing. He seemed energized.  

I’ve been thinking that for a prose writer, perhaps energy can be found in leaving aside, for a while, the interiority that is such a powerful element in fiction. A prose writer must shift to the outside world as they begin to consider screenplay. At its most essential, a screenplay describes narrative in image, sound, and time. 

Here’s a simplistic example. Perhaps your character, a barista depressed with the inequity of her position, is broken hearted by a philandering partner, a physician who refuses to acknowledge her privilege. You might write a paragraph or a chapter about your character’s reaction and thoughts. In this alien new form of screenplay, you do not write these personal impressions, unless in voice-over narration, which risks rifting the suspension of disbelief. How can you show us interiority? 

Perhaps your character stands in her apartment kitchen staring with hatred at her lover’s environmentally destructive Keurig coffeemaker (over which we have seen them argue). She yanks it off the counter, carries it outside to the driveway, where the good doctor has parked a nice white Audi, as fresh as a lab coat. The scene is without words, without thought. But as your protagonist heaves the coffeemaker against the windshield, smashing glass and the machine, and then takes a long moment to process what she has just done, we know how she’s doing. This is a dramatic and perhaps clunky example, but how are small defeats, victories and desires visible in what people do and say? How can you visualize the imagery and actions you have written as thoughts?

If you are considering writing in an alien form, there are a finicky but basic rule that are easy to find and learn about on-line. Screenplay format is precise. It consists of ninety to a hundred and twenty pages for a feature film, with a strict three act structure and margins and font of courier twelve point only. TV show episodes are thirty pages – half an hour of time – or sixty pages – an hour (or forty-four pages – an hour of tv with room for commercials. Yes, we must acknowledge the soap hawker history of the form.) A page of screenplay equals one minute of screen time. Free software applications available online, like FadeIn, can help you format your work properly. The page of a screenplay is divided into slug lines that tell us where we are, stage directions that describe what we see and hear, and dialogue. It is strict, in order to serve as a blueprint for the crew and cast who works to make the screenplay into a screen experience.  

Prose writers overwhelmed with this experiment may be reassured to know that the length of a feature film screenplay works out to be roughly the same word count as seventy pages of prose. Conversely, a full-length novel often is said to carry “too much story”, and risks evisceration in adaptation. Screenplays are short.

In screenplay, visual and narrative format rules are strict and unbreakable, but script-writing is a form easily learned with a little practice and a sense of play. Attempting screenplay may be an energizing way to write about and explore a familiar topic or situation. 

What have you written that did not turn out the way you had hoped? Is there a way to reframe that story, to see it from a new angle and tell it as a visual screen story?  What situation did you experience or want to explore, and what images and sounds accompany that story?  What would you like to see on screen that has never been seen before?  

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BWS 12.05.21: Therese Estacion

Therese Estacion is part of the Visayan diaspora community. She is an elementary school teacher and is studying to be a psychotherapist. Therese is also a bilateral below knee and partial hands amputee, and identifies as a disabled person/person with a disability. Therese lives in Toronto. Her poems have been published in CV2 and PANK MagazinePhantompains is her first book.

The virtual launch of my book Phantompains, was released by Book*hug press in March. My friend Melissa Comeau, a singer/songwriter from Nova Scotia, joined me to provide music and support. Her voice and songs have an uncanny way of making me cry. It’s probably because she is able to express vulnerability in a palpable way. Something that is difficult for me to do in my everyday life.

That night, Tamara Berger, author of Maidenhead and Queen Solomon, also joined me as the interviewer. Really, she was more than just an interviewer. She was the captain that helped steer the conversation through the difficult emotions my work evoked. It was an honour to have her there.

Lastly, I am grateful to my publishers, Hazel and Jay, for organizing the event and for all of their support. The night was a celebratory moment in my journey. I hope you enjoy the video.

Therese Estacion visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Elizabeth HirstRyanne Kapand Waubgeshig Rice. Our guest speaker Tricia Fish, best known for her debut comedy feature inspired by her youth in Cape Breton – “New Waterford Girl,” talks us through, “Screenwriting versus Prose”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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BWS 12.05.21: Waubgeshig Rice

Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist from Wasauksing First Nation. He has written three fiction titles, and his short stories and essays have been published in numerous anthologies. His most recent novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, was published in 2018 and became a national bestseller. He graduated from Ryerson University’s journalism program in 2002, and spent most of his journalism career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a video journalist and radio host. He left CBC in 2020 to focus on his literary career. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario with his wife and two sons.

Widening the Storytelling Circle

Does the world really need another podcast? I guess it depends on who you ask, and how you ask it. About a year ago, an old acquaintance of mine from Ottawa named Jennifer David heard I was leaving my longtime broadcasting career at CBC, and she asked me if I wanted to start a podcast with her. But this wouldn’t be any generic podcast with two Indigenous people riffing on random topics. She had a very specific idea in mind: a podcast about Indigenous literature. I didn’t have to think about it long. I was in.

It wasn’t an entirely new notion. Jennifer had reached out to me back when I lived in Ottawa years ago to see if I was interested in starting a similar project with her. But the difference in 2020 was I had the flexibility and freedom to give it a shot. After a few conversations over the summer, the idea started firming up. It would be a monthly podcast about Indigenous literature in the same vein as a book club, hosted by us, with a new guest every month to talk about a book by an Indigenous author.

And thus, the Storykeepers Podcast was born. We had ongoing conversations about the works in the canon of Indigenous literature we wanted to discuss, along with newer books that we wanted to spotlight. We came up with a dream list of potential guest hosts who were mostly Indigenous authors. We talked logistics and how we could make the project happen. We would each acquire a decent microphone, and record our conversations with our guests over Zoom. In the pandemic era of increased connectivity, it seemed totally doable.

We planned to fund the entire endeavour on our own, but then we decided to inquire with the Ontario Arts Council about funding. We were pointed to the Indigenous Arts Program, and encouraged to apply. In January, we found out we were successful in receiving a grant to cover some equipment and operating costs, and Storykeepers was closer to becoming a reality.

Our first episode launched in March with a discussion about Daniel Heath Justice’s crucial book Why Indigenous Literatures Matter. The uptake and response were great, and we followed that up with an episode on Maria Campbell’s classic memoir Halfbreed. Poet Gregory Scofield joined us for that one. And we have an extensive roster of books and guests planned for the rest of the year.

 We have been very humbled and honoured by the response, and the answer is now much clearer to us: yes, the world does need another podcast, especially another one that focuses on Indigenous literature. Many of our cultures are rooted in oral storytelling, so a spoken homage to the books that inspire, enlighten, and empower us is rather fitting. You can find us on most podcast and social media platforms, so please like and subscribe!

Waubgeshig Rice visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Elizabeth HirstRyanne Kapand Therese Estacion. Our guest speaker Tricia Fish, best known for her debut comedy feature inspired by her youth in Cape Breton – “New Waterford Girl,” talks us through, “Screenwriting versus Prose”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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BWS 12.05.21: Ryanne Kap

Ryanne Kap is a Chinese-Canadian writer from Strathroy, Ontario. Her work has been featured in Grain MagazineFeelszinecarte blanche, and elsewhere. In 2020, her short story “Heat” won first place in Grain Magazine’s Short Grain contest. You can find her online at www.ryannekap.com or on Twitter and Instagram @ryannekap.

I asked Sarah Hilton and Victoria Mbabazi, two of my best friends and fellow writers, if we could ask each other nonsense questions about our writing. This is the result.

Ryanne: Sarah, what colour are your poems, and why? You can pick one poem if you want but your poems in general, do you feel like they have a certain vibe? Do they have a colour?

Sarah: I feel like the chapbook I wrote recently, maybe it’s like a moss green. I feel like that has almost a similar vibe to how Hozier sounds, like it’s just this cryptid living in the woods, and they’re rising up from the earth and they’re just trying to dig their lover out with them. That’s the vibe of my poems, it’s like the body combined with nature. 

Ryanne: Do you have a certain Hozier song that people should listen to before they read your poems?

Sarah:  I think “In the Woods Somewhere” from his self-titled album from the extended edition, or “Wasteland Baby!”, like the song. 

Ryanne: Victoria, if one of your poems was going to be turned into a movie, which one would it be, and who would you want to direct it?

Victoria: The Plot The Heist The Pot.” I want co-directors. Judd Apatow and Jordan Peele cuz I think it’d be really funny but then also really cool cinematography-wise.

Ryanne: Nice.

Victoria: Okay. You know what, I’m sorry. Right off the bat. Ryanne, what book has influenced your writing the most and why is it The Road by Cormac McCarthy?

Ryanne: First off, I will not be accepting your apology. I think The Road is really brave for not using punctuation and expecting the reader to go along with it. So you know, I also like to see what the reader will put up with. And if they will accept that there is never a plot in any of my stories. Thank you for the question.

Sarah: Can I interject?

Ryanne: Yes.

Sarah: The Road really is fundamental to both of your writing because it has no plot like Ryanne, but also it has no punctuation like Victoria’s. 

Victoria: My question for you is similar to Ryanne’s question.

Sarah: Oh no.

Victoria: If your poetry was an animal, what animal would it be?

Sarah: I feel like… Oh no. I hate this. Okay so there’s this movie called Antichrist with Willem Dafoe and it takes place a lot of the time in the wilderness and Willem Dafoe comes across all of these creatures. And there’s a fox that says “chaos reigns” out of nowhere. Recently I got a poem accepted intoRelease Any Words Stuck Inside of You III. And I think that poem is a deer, but it’s specifically the deer from Antichrist. It turns to the side, and you see that it has half a baby deer coming out of its—

Ryanne: I get it. Thank you.

Sarah: You’re welcome.

Ryanne: Sarah, what are your questions?

Sarah:  Victoria, I’m thinking of the speaker of your poems. What is their sun, moon and rising?

Victoria:  I think “Femme Fatale” is all just fire placements, you know what I mean. Like an Aries sun, Pisces moon, and then a Leo rising. And then everything else is Aries. Some poems are just Pisces placements, but I think it always goes between Aries and Pisces. 

Sarah: Why is that?

Victoria: Because I’m not well. So I’m either really sad, or really angry. And then I think maybe the Cancer placement is the thing that tries to make it funny, because they’re like a peacemaker placement. 

Sarah: Ryanne, what are 3-5 songs you would put on a playlist about your next work in progress?

Ryanne: I next have to work on five short stories about adopted Chinese Canadians for a final project that I’m doing. I would say, “1901” by Birdie, “Motion Sickness” by Phoebe Bridgers, “right where you left me” by Taylor Swift, “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens, “Melancholy Hill” by Gorillaz. The vibe is kind of like you’re 17 and you’re realizing that you don’t know what’s going on at all.

Ryanne: Okay, as a wrap-up question, what’s it like for your close friends to also be writers? 

Victoria: It’s harrowing. It’s definitely brave of us to be friends. Writing at the same time. You know, it’s such a solitary act. So, yeah, it’s solitary. It’s harrowing. It’s brave.

Sarah: You’re just saying buzzwords.

Victoria: It’s in conversation with. It’s the ways in which it’s happening. It’s speaking to. 

Ryanne: Okay, thank you. Sarah?

Sarah: It’s learning vocabulary outside of the same five things that CanLit always says. What about you?

Ryanne: I will not accept any edits that are not from Google Docs. That’s what I’ve taken from this experience. There’s nothing quite like having people live-editing your document, and just yelling things in the comments. 

Victoria: That’s what friendship is. It’s yelling in the Google Docs. 

Ryanne: Yeah, I think that’s really profound.

Victoria: I think that’s the most profound thing I’ve said all evening.

Sarah: I think you’re both saying nothing. 

Ryanne & Victoria: Yeah.

Ryanne Kap visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Elizabeth HirstWaubgeshig Riceand Therese Estacion. Our guest speaker Tricia Fish, best known for her debut comedy feature inspired by her youth in Cape Breton – “New Waterford Girl,” talks us through, “Screenwriting versus Prose”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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BWS 12.05.21: Elizabeth Hirst

Elizabeth Hirst is a Canadian horror author, graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop Class of 2006, and an editor of books and short stories. Her writing on LGBT themes in horror fiction has appeared on Tor.com and The Scariest Part, and her novels, The Face in the Marsh and Distant Early Warning are available from Renaissance Press. Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @hirst_author, and blogging at http://elizabethhirstblog.wordpress.com.

Elizabeth’s latest novel, Distant Early Warning, combines horror elements with adventure and climate change fiction in a story of redemption, love and loss. Today, she shares an excerpt from the book in which the protagonist, Denny, waits in the dark alone, not knowing what kind of creature she may encounter. 

Meeting the Wildlife

As the instruments dimmed, Denny looked for the touch light in the door pocket beside her. All of the contents were obscured by shadow, and no way was she going to go sticking her hand into random crevices in Seaburn’s car. For all she knew, he had old needles stashed somewhere unexpected. Denny pulled an old tissue out of her pocket. Better that than nothing. She poked once or twice on what might have been a couple of old cigarette cartons, then hit on something round. She pulled the touch light out of the pocket, laid it on her lap, and pressed the button.

A fountain of pale blue, flickering light sprayed out of the touch light. At first, Denny held it to herself like a treasured pet, but she soon realized that with the light so close to her face, she couldn’t see out of the windows at all. Once she set the touch light on the driver’s seat, she found that her eyes adjusted just enough that she could see the pale outline of the sky against the tops of the trees.

Having figured out her living arrangements for the next half hour or so (at least she hoped it would only be that long), Denny’s inner monologue started up. Geoff was asleep on the back seat, and so she wouldn’t wake him if she could help it. Tense, alone, and a little bit chilly, she tried to force herself to sit back in the seat and forget where she was. All she ended up doing was leaning back on her right arm and making it fall asleep, and counting the minutes until Seaburn was due back.

It had been at least twenty minutes when Geoff raised his head and growled. Denny looked back at the dog, then squinted her eyes, trying to see more of what was outside. Geoff never growled at people…even people he didn’t know. He only growled when there were animals outside.

Denny heard a loud crack coming from in front of them and across the road. Something big was trundling through the underbrush, breaking things in its way. Whatever Geoff was onto, it was big. Denny grabbed Geoff’s collar and shushed him, but Geoff was locked onto whatever it was and no amount of petting or shaking was going to break him out of it. He barked, and Denny cringed.

All of a sudden, she remembered the touch light on the seat. Whatever was out there would see that first, if it wanted to come looking for Geoff. She smacked the touch light, then huddled in the dark, staring out the window for any new information.

Please don’t let it be a bear, please don’t let it be a bear, please don’t let it be a mother bear of all things ran through her head like a neon news ticker. She remembered a story that her dad had been fond of telling, about her great-grandfather. Apparently, he had been on a tour of the Rockies one time, in a car with roll-up windows. While crossing through Banff, he had been forced to stop for a group of black bears crossing the road. One of the bears, smelling the sandwiches in the car, had decided that it wanted a taste of the food…and stuck its claws under the rubber sealing on the window and pulled it down with nothing but brute strength. If it hadn’t been for the timely arrival of a park ranger, as Dad told it, old Great-Grandpa would have ended up as dessert.

Geoff was still growling. As Denny’s eyes adjusted, she could see the road, a vaguely reflective charcoal grey strip, and the black blocks of trees on either side. Up above, the sky was a deep blue, not quite black yet, and speckled with stars.

A shape emerged onto the tarmac, and as it crossed the lighter portion of the road, Denny could see that it was a huge animal, with long, spindly legs, a droopy neck, and bumpy, scoop-shaped antlers. A bull moose. Denny let out a sigh of relief as a small cow with two calves peeked out of the bushes and crossed the road. Geoff barked again. The bull turned its head, then quickly ignored him. After the moose family had disappeared into the forest, Denny heard a long, hooting call, and then silence reigned once again. Geoff relaxed. After ten minutes, with the exception of the nervous dog stink that now filled the car, Denny would never have known he’d gotten upset in the first place.

By the time the moose had crossed the road, Denny figured it had been forty minutes or so since Seaburn had disappeared into the forest. She gazed at the mottled charcoal grey wall of the forest edge beside her, waiting to catch a washed-out glimpse of his flannel coat in the moonlight. After what must have been an hour, she blinked to clear the impression of the window and the trees out of her eyes and tried to think of something else to do.

Almost without realizing it, she fell into her old trick from the doctor’s office. Whenever she felt both bored and nervous at the same time, she had developed the habit of attempting to recite familiar poetry in her head and trying to remember all of the stanzas perfectly. Some people, she knew, did the alphabet backwards in similar situations, but she had worked that trick up to light speed years ago, along with much of Yeats and most of the prologue to The Canterbury Tales. She started out with something from the Blake book Dad had given her. It was the last piece of literature she had read, and thus the most likely for her to remember.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Okay, that was the easy part, the part they always quoted in textbooks. Now what was the next part again? Something about “skies” and “Burn the fire of thine eyes.” “In what far immortal skies?” No… “In what deeps and in the skies…” still no, but closer…

Denny had almost cobbled together half of the second stanza (In what distant deeps or skies/ Burnt the fire of thine eyes) when Seaburn slapped the hood, startling her out of her memorization game. He slung open the door and slipped down into the driver’s seat, spine supple as new rubber.

 “Better?” Denny asked flatly.

  “You know it,” he said, breathing heavily for a moment, then, “Did the bears get you? How about the boogey man?”

  “I survived,” she said.

Elizabeth Hirst visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Ryanne KapWaubgeshig Riceand Therese Estacion. Our guest speaker Tricia Fish, best known for her debut comedy feature inspired by her youth in Cape Breton – “New Waterford Girl,” talks us through, “Screenwriting versus Prose”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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