BWS 14.11.18: Glynis Guevara

glynis_guevara photo

Glynis Guevara was born in Barataria, Trinidad, but has lived in Canada for more than twenty years. She attempted to write her first novel at fourteen, and even though it was never completed she never gave up her love for writing. Several years after completing high school, she moved to London, England to study law. She successfully completed a Bachelor of Laws (honours) degree and was admitted to the bar of England and Wales and Trinidad and Tobago.

Glynis enrolled as a student at Humber College School for Writers after she was laid off her job at a Toronto hospital; she hasn’t stopped writing since. She was shortlisted for the Small Axe Literary (short fiction) prize in 2012 and the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean LiteratureUnder the Zaboca Tree (Inanna Publications, 2017) is her debut novel. Her second YA novel, Black Beach was published in September 2018. She currently works as an adult literacy instructor in Toronto.

 

 

In 2005, I was bumped from my job as a technical writer / computer trainer at a Toronto hospital. I was suddenly unemployed and didn’t have a clue how I was going to close the townhouse I’d already signed the contract to purchase. I totally remember my first day at home without a job. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I decided to write about my life. I didn’t have any plans to write a novel then; I just wrote to deal with the pain. The days passed, and I couldn’t stop writing. I got up early every morning and wrote all day long. I eventually began to put my focus on drafting a manuscript called Pain of My Imperfections. Eventually, I enrolled as a student at Humber College School for Writers. I was lucky to have Rabindranath (Robin) Maharaj as my mentor. During this course, I worked on the Pain of My Imperfections manuscript.  After the course ended, I put that novel aside and began to write Under the Zaboca Tree. It became my debut YA novel, published in June 2017 by Inanna Publications.

Under the Zaboca Tree 

Under the Zaboca Tree tells the story of ten-year-old, Baby Girl as she moves from Canada to Trinidad with her dad. Baby Girl can’t recall ever meeting her mom, but she never gives up her dream of one day reuniting with her. Many people have told me that Under the Zaboca Tree seems true to life but is fiction. My childhood was very different from Baby Girl’s. I had a very stable childhood, while Baby Girl has to learn how to deal with constant changes in her life. She and I are similar in that we both love books and using our creative energy to deal with difficult situations.

Black Beach 

Black Beach tells the story of 16-year-old Tamera who lives in a tropical fishing village with her parents. While Tamera tries to find herself, she must deal with numerous issues including her mother’s illness, the absence of her boyfriend who moves out of the village to work, the disappearance of a classmate and an environmental disaster that hits her community affecting the villagers’ health and livelihood. I was motivated to write this book after reading about an oil spill in south Trinidad in 2013.  Black Beach was published by Inanna Publications (2018).

What’s Next?

Currently, I’m writing a sequel to my debut novel, Under the Zaboca. The biggest difficulty so far is dealing with a challenging health issue, but the manuscript is already written in my head. It is just a matter of finding the time to commit my thoughts to paper. The working title is Poui Season and it follows Baby Girl as she returns to Toronto for the first time at sixteen years old. Besides writing Poui Season, I’m also seeking a literary agent for my solo adult manuscript Pain of My Imperfections which I’ve revised within recent years. Pain of My Imperfections is written in a man’s voice and deals with the many trials immigrants face after arriving in Canada. The novel is based in Canada, Trinidad and Grenada.

 

Glynis Guevara visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Priya Ramsingh, Anthony Easton, Rocco de Giacomo, and guest speaker Anne Laurel Carter presents us with tips on “Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

BWS 14.11.18: Anthony Easton

Anthony

Anthony Easton is a critic, from Edmonton, and now living in Hamilton. They have written about class, gender, and sexuality—including for the Globe and Mail, Pitchfork, the Atlantic Online, Spin, CBC, among many other publications.

 

I was wondering which essays I was going to read at Brockton, and I have kept returning back to this problem of the confessional. The essays that keep coming to me, are deeply personal, and it made me nervous. The following blog entry is intended to do two things: a) it is a defense of the confessional essay b) it positions the eventual public performance. If I was being truly honest, it also means that I cannot get out of reading it out loud.

Seven Anecdotes concerning the Queer Confessional:

“ Indeed to speak or write of homosexuality at all is to run the risk of being taken as a gossip. Given that historical events have conspired to make homosexuality a subject of scandal, then gossip, as that “low” discursive practice drawn to scandalous subjects, has come to enjoy a particular affinity with homosexuality. ”

Gavin Butt, “Gossip: The Hardcore of History,” in Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World, 1948-1963

 

To be queer is to be confessional. It’s genealogies are coded, underground—the wink, the nod, the hint and the bump. It’s subtle discourses are self protective, and that self protection has encased in endless layers of discourse and code. When a queer writer (when I) speak of self, these layers refuse singular meaning, the gossip and the code–is text and subtext, surface text and under layers of desire. I am planning on reading a work of autobiography, a confession of desire, at Brockton, here are seven anecdotes about confession to prime the pump—think of it as proto confession. Think of it like when you pass along a story so others don’t get the juice first.

Anecdote One:

Heterosexuality is compulsory (thank you Adrienne Rich.) Everyone will assume you are straight, unless you tell them otherwise. They will often assume that you are gay, if you tell them you are not straight. Even in this age of the pan, the post, the non, the other—where the liquidity of gender and sex seem constantly reified, the binary continually reasserts itself. The self and the body are policed into a concordance that is profoundly discordant.  My body reads masc, myself refuses my body. Having sex with men does not preclude having sex with anyone else.

Anecdote Two:

Self identity is wily. Who we are is made by construction, I wonder if there is any permeance in it, I am not sure that it is something that we are born into. I think that we have this recency bias, and so that we assume that the stories we tell about our own sex, are stories of our time and place–but we assume that time and place is universal, but it is deeply and heavily localised, a concretion of tiny choices and small geographies–as for me, it is growing up out west a decade after the plague years, or going to high school the same year as Matthew Shepard, or growing up Mormon, or those weeks I spent in Vancouver in my late teens, or moving to Toronto in my mid 20s—this might suggest an atomized, personalized sexuality, but think of it as a set of nodes–sometimes repelling, sometimes attracting, floating into the ether. Maybe not enough to build a movement on, but we try.

Anecdote Three

This atomized, confessional mode, means that identity is constructed by how we tell stories. It is about the crafting stories–queerness is defined by a few explicit narratives. The coming out story. The first time one had sex story. The stories of discovering what turns you on, and how that turn on is different than what might turn others. The stories about the farce of cruising. The more tragic stories–we still have this internalized homophobia, the stories of rejection, of loathing, of the spit word from a passing car, from the violence of a culture. The secret of these tales is not that they exist, but that they are traded. Each time they are told, they are edited, polished to a fine sheen. When Didion tells us that we tell each other stories to live, it is not the stories that save us, it is the telling.

Anecdote Four:

These are my stories. I tell them to you. These are your stories. You tell them to me. There is this idea that the act of storytelling will bring us together. That the individual stories will magically create empathy, and that it will be an act of delightful bridge building. Here are other reasons why people tell stories: To seduce, to humiliate, to belittle, to claim space, to enact violence, to show empathy, to explain complicated truths, to entertain, to shock, to turn on, to disgust, to cause division. When a story is anthologized as an act of identity creation, one must be careful of motives.

Anecdote Five:

Each of those reasons to tell a story, each of those reasons to confess is an example of craft. This idea that I will tell my truth, denies the idea of craft. Craft can be done poorly, or be completed with technical skill, crafting a confession does not mean that one is lying. Think about the first story that one tells of one’s queerness (my queerness, your queerness.) Queerness requires finesse. The initial coming out, is practiced–first in front of a mirror, alone; then in front of a community. The story is told again and again.  Queer confessional is an act of deliberate self fashioning. When I read at Brockton–the piece that I will write has been edited by professionals, but even before I wrote it down on paper–I told the stories of it everywhere that people might confess: in doctor’s offices, on the therapist’s couch, at church, in bar rooms. The informal networks, online and off, the gossip that allows the self to emerge, is all on the page. Every queer act of writing centers on good dish.

Anecdote Six:

I hope the writing is refined. The corners knocked off, the drafts well constructed. Everything smoothed out, and then afterwards, a bit of roughness abraded, as a kind of decorative prettiness. Roughness is as much of an aesthetic strategy as smoothness.

Anecdote Seven:

In this question of what we tell, in the crafting, remind yourself that this is not the whole store. That the confession, the crafted story, so much is cut off. Sometimes it is self censoring, sometimes it does not fit the culture, sometimes the tangent distracts from the central narrative. There is so much discussion of fraud, of the confessional not being real, of people faking what could be considered real. Part of me wants to ask, do you want something real, or do you want something good; part of me wants to remind someone that the memory is fallible; sometimes one wants to remind an audience that editing is removing as much telling. The tell all’s power rests on the hint, or the ellipse.

Maybe these aren’t anecdotes as much as thoughts about how to craft a queer identity now, maybe they are ways of indicating what I am presenting will be ambivalent.

I have always done a bad job at sales.

Anthony Easton visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Priya Ramsingh, Glynis Guevara, Rocco de Giacomo, and guest speaker Anne Laurel Carter presents us with tips on “Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Writers & Performers

BWS 14.11.18: Priya Ramsingh

Priya

Priya Ramsingh has been making up stories since she learned the art of cursive writing. She began to frequent libraries, immersing herself in literature and decided she wanted to write for a living. Her career took her into the corporate world to craft copy and she freelanced during her off time at a local newspaper. She finally finished Brown Girl in the Room in 2016 (Tightrope Books) after the nagging in her head became too overbearing. So far, the story has hit home with readers from across the continent who call it, ‘all too relatable.’

Her second novel is complete and she currently awaits a publisher’s interest. In the meantime, Priya writes the occasional op-ed for the Toronto Star and is the author of a monthly diversity column for Metroland Media.

 

The Journey

Stories. I was a child lost in tales. Immersing myself in pages, standing beside the characters, reeling at their losses, feeling their love, their smiles contagious, speaking their words out loud.

I began my own. Writing, for hours, in my room, alone. My imagination unfolding into words.

My grade 5 teacher was the first to call me out. You’re good, he acknowledged. Keep going.

But how?

I watched, unlike others. I saw, what others didn’t see. I asked why, over and over. Who cares? People would say. Why do you worry?

Fascination made me question. So obvious, such hatred. Fear. Giddy love. Freedom, attention seeking, pain. Where did it all come from?

Suddenly my own emotions surfaced. Overbearing. Overtaking. The words were stuck. I stopped.

I discarded the pen. I looked elsewhere.

Years passed and suddenly it was back. In front of me with a command. Write, it urged. The pen was gone, replaced by keys. I complied.

The criticisms were sharp. It needs work. It needs to be changed. They didn’t see what I saw.

I fell and stayed on the ground. But suddenly an outstretched hand. Get up. Write. Over and over. Scraped knees, bruised ego, deflation and then back up again, grasping hands that appeared out of nowhere. Thankful.

When I was down, it appeared in physical form. Write, they said.

I learned. I wrote. Acknowledgement replaced criticisms, and then praise.

Suddenly, roadblocks. And then pain. Sharp and hard, pushing me over. I held it inside until I heard the voice – write.

The words came out. A flurry, that turned into pages. Agony. Finish, it said. Don’t stop.

I finished. The anxiety was gone. Peace. Brown Girl in the Room was ready. Relief.

 

Priya Ramsingh visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Anthony Easton, Glynis Guevara, Rocco de Giacomo, and guest speaker Anne Laurel Carter presents us with tips on “Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Writers & Performers

BWS 14.11.18: Rocco de Giacomo

pic

Toronto writer Rocco de Giacomo is a widely-published poet whose work has appeared in literary journals in Canada, Australia, England, Hong Kong and the US. His collections include Ten Thousand Miles Between Us (Quattro Books) and Every Night of Our Lives (Guernica Editions). The author of numerous poetry chapbooks and full-length collections, his latest, Brace Yourselves – on the representation of the individual as it relates to the Zeitgeist – was published in January 2018, through Quattro Books. Rocco lives in Toronto with his wife, Lisa Keophila, a fabric artist, and his daughters, Ava and Matilda.  

 

To the readers, let me just say that I am happy to be reading at the Brockton Writers Series and honoured to be reading with Priya Ramsingh, Anthony Easton, Glynis Guevara, and Anne Laurel Carter. It is really looking to be a fantastic night. I can hardly wait.

After reviewing the BWS website, it looks like a lot of people are giving advice about writing and getting published. I’ll do the same in regard to poetry, and I will try to keep it short, as there is something I would like to share with you afterwards.

  1. Write poetry every day.
  2. Read poetry every day.
  3. Remember that, no matter what you write, there’s a good chance a thousand other people have written the same thing.
  4. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit.
  5. If you are submitting to literary journals, keep a record of where you’ve submitted and to whom (I use an Excel worksheet) and never let a poem sit a home for more than one submission cycle.
  6. Start grant-writing, if you haven’t already (TAC, OAC, CAC). Not only can the funding help create a space for yourself, but the process of grant-writing forces you to hone and sharpen the themes and ideas you’re using in your manuscript.
  7. Join a writer’s group, attend a writer’s workshop (if you can afford it), enroll in a creative writing program (if you can afford it). All of these will expose you to new ideas, feedback for your own work, and the opportunity to network.
  8. If you have a manuscript ready and are seeking a publisher, for the love of god, schmooze. The world of Canadian poetry is just like any other industry: it’s not what you know or where you have been published, it’s WHO you know. Please use any of the places mentioned in step 7 to network. In addition, attend book launches, literary journal launches and poetry readings.

I hope my advice is useful.

Now, as for that something I would like to share. In 1999, when I was living in Vancouver, I borrowed a CD anthology of poetry from a friend. I listened to it numerous times, and then gave it back. One poem, however, stayed with me over the years, its lines pulsing in the back of my head. I would forget, however, the name of the poet and the anthology. From time to time I would scour the internet, and various search engines, using variations of the poem’s title, to no avail. I reached out to my Vancouver friend, who remembered the name of the anthology (My Tongue is a Red Carpet I Only Roll Out for You), but not the specific poet. Even with the new information, nothing turned up on the internet. Until, that is, my last search, about two weeks ago.

The poet’s name is Kenneth Caroll, and the poem is “So What?“. It is still as riveting and relevant today as it was twenty years ago.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

Rocco de Giacomo, visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Priya Ramsingh, Anthony Easton, Glynis Guevara, and guest speaker Anne Laurel Carter presents us with tips on“Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Writers & Performers

Brockton Writers Series 14.11.18

Wednesday, November 14, 2018 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Rocco de Giacomo
Priya Ramsingh
Anthony Easton
Glynis Guevara

with special guest speaker

Anne Laurel Carter

Glad Day Bookshop

499 Church Street, Toronto

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

ACCESSIBILITY INFO
The venue is accessible. Please refrain from wearing scents.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

OAC_REVISED_NEWCOLOURS_1805c

And to the Canada Council for the Arts for travel funding!

 

GUEST SPEAKER

Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.

 

annalaural

Anne Laurel Carter grew up in Don Mills. She’s been a librarian and ESL/ FSL teacher. Her 19 books were inspired by her experiences or interviews of interesting people or by the dreamscape of her imagination. She lives in Toronto and Nova Scotia.

 

READERS

pic

Toronto writer Rocco de Giacomo is a widely-published poet whose work has appeared in literary journals in Canada, Australia, England, Hong Kong and the US. His collections include Ten Thousand Miles Between Us (Quattro Books) and Every Night of Our Lives (Guernica Editions).

 

 

 

 

Priya

Priya Ramsingh has been making up stories since she learned the art of cursive writing. She began to frequent libraries, immersing herself in literature and decided she wanted to write for a living. Her career took her into the corporate world to craft copy and she freelanced during her off time at a local newspaper. She finally finished Brown Girl in the Room in 2016 (Tightrope Books) after the nagging in her head became too overbearing. So far, the story has hit home with readers from across the continent who call it, ‘all too relatable.’

Her second novel is complete and she currently awaits a publisher’s interest. In the meantime, Priya writes the occasional op-ed for the Toronto Star and is the author of a monthly diversity column for Metroland Media.

 

Anthony

Anthony Easton is a critic, from Edmonton, and now living in Hamilton. They have written about class, gender, and sexuality—including for the Globe and Mail, Pitchfork, the Atlantic Online, Spin, CBC, among many other publications.

 

glynis_guevara photo

Glynis Guevara was born in Barataria, Trinidad, but has lived in Canada for more than twenty years. She attempted to write her first novel at fourteen, and even though it was never completed she never gave up her love for writing. Several years after completing high school, she moved to London, England to study law. She successfully completed a Bachelor of Laws (honours) degree and was admitted to the bar of England and Wales and Trinidad and Tobago. Glynis enrolled as a student at Humber College School for Writers after she was laid off her job at a Toronto hospital; she hasn’t stopped writing since. She was shortlisted for the Small Axe Literary (short fiction) prize in 2012 and the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean Literature. Under the Zaboca Tree (Inanna Publications, 2017) is her debut novel. Her second YA novel, Black Beach was published in September 2018. She currently works as an adult literacy instructor in Toronto.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writers & Performers

BWS 12.09.18 report: “How to Read a Poem,” with Bardia Sinaee

SINAEE

Bardia Sinaee was born in Tehran, Iran, and lives in Toronto. His poems have appeared in magazines across Canada and in several editions of Best Canadian Poetry in English. He is the assistant editor at the Literary Review of Canada and an MFA student at Guelph-Humber.

At our last event, Bardia distributed copies of “The Throw,” a poem by David O’Meara from Noble Gas, Penny Black to audience members. He took us on a journey of what reading a poem means to him.

 

I should begin with a disclaimer: The best way to read a poem is simply to read it (and/or listen to it). The true subject of this piece is how to read into a poem. If you find that a poem really affects you, and you want to investigate how and why, consider this one starting point.

Poetry, perhaps paradoxically, is the product of both freedom and compression. You can say or do anything in a poem, and yet many of them can fit on a single page. It’s therefore fair to assume that every word, line break, and punctuation mark is deliberate. This is not to say that every authorial decision can be traced to a clear objective, but that in a good poem even the most playful and seemingly spontaneous lines have been subjected to a certain deliberation. One way to read a poem more closely is to look at various aspects of the poem and ask why they are the way they are, given that every other option in the world was available to the poet.

What, if anything, is the poem “about”? Does anything happen in it? Who is speaking and what is their relation to the world and to us?

Even the most abstract poems can’t help but situate themselves the universe, in the world of discourse and things. Examine the speaker’s voice, tone, and language. For example, the speaker might be parroting legalese or invoking a religious address. Are they addressing you the reader, themselves, or nobody in particular. Are they omniscient, intimate, scared, polemical? Are we inside a dream?

Once you’ve got a few observations about what, compare these to your impressions of the poem’s other discernible elements, such as its diction, images, or setting. Are colours present? Weather? How, if at all, do these relate to the mood and emotional register?

How does the poem sound when you read it out loud? Is its shape on the page narrow or expansive? Do these two aspects of the piece complement one another? How do they reflect the voice of the speaker or enact the thematic elements of the poem?

Poets pay attention to the materiality of their work. A poet might use short lines, clipped syntax, and subdued imagery to evoke quietude. She might use small stanzas with extra space between them to encourage careful, introspective reading. When used sparingly, rhyme and metre can propel the piece forward. Alternatively, dissonance, irregular syntax, and the piling on of stressed syllables could be deployed to slow the pace or to evoke frustration and discord.

Again, compare your observations about the poem’s materiality to its subject, tone, and imagery.

When its technical and thematic elements cohere, even the shortest poems can effectively conjure a rich and vivid world. Our favourite poems take us where we don’t want to leave. Reading a poem closely is one way of lingering there a little longer.

 

Stay tuned for information about our next event and features on our upcoming writers! 

Leave a comment

Filed under Writers & Performers

BWS 12.09.18: Emily Sanford

Emily_Sanford

Emily Sanford was born in Nova Scotia and holds an MA in Literature and Performance from Guelph. She is the winner of the 2016 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival Literary Award for Poetry, the 2018 Janice Colbert Award, and was listed in The 10 Best Poems of 2016, by Vancouver Poetry House. Her work appears in Canthius, Grain Magazine, Minola Reviewnewpoetry.ca, Plenitude Magazine and the recently released Applebeard Editions anthology of flash fiction, Release Any Words Stuck Inside of You. Emily is the Creative Writing Program Administrator at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, and co-hosts the Brockton Writers Series.

Starting Late and Listening to Wisdom

I feel like I’m late to the game. I have always worked in the arts, supporting others in their creative endeavours, but it’s only fairly recently that I started writing and submitting poetry of my own for public consumption. Having my first published poetry out in the world the year I turned forty means I don’t really suit most people’s idea of an “emerging” writer—I have a day job, a wife and kids. I’m on the cusp of needing reading glasses.

Still, it’s never too late to start, right? And as such, I still need all the encouragement that others who are just starting out need. But now I’m old enough to know that even though writing itself is a solitary act (well, more or less—as I’m writing this, my four-year old has his head on my shoulder, waiting patiently for me to explain how marbles, and bubble gum, and bandaids are made), it really works better when you don’t work in isolation. So one of the first tasks I’ve taken upon myself as an “emerging” writer is to pay attention, go to events, hop on social media to find out what’s up (and wow, there’s lots up), introduce myself to established writers whose work inspires me, and listen carefully to any advice they’re willing to give.

So, while I don’t consider myself established or successful enough to be doling out advice for others just yet, I thought it might be valuable to pass along some wisdom from some of the writers whose work I admire:

Elisabeth di Mariaffi – Schedule time to write, and then show up. She warned me to treat it like an important appointment with an industry professional, because it is. Taking yourself seriously by honouring your commitment to writing is really difficult when there are competing forces all battling for your time and attention, but if you want to be a writer, it’s a cold hard fact that you have to actually show up and, well, write. Her latest novel, Hysteria, came out earlier this year.

Farzana Doctor – Confront, acknowledge, and speak to your Fear. Farzana says, “A lot of people will tell you: Don’t listen to it! Just ignore it! but that’s the wrong approach.” She literally suggested saying, “Oh, hello, Fear. I see you there.” And then keep writing. You can even personify your Inner Critic, and tell your Fear about your writing—earlier this year, she asked the folks in the BWS audience to draw a picture of their Inner Critic. This was hilarious and eye-opening to me—and taught me a little bit about what I need to confront when self-doubt is squawking its loudest. If you haven’t read Farzana’s All Inclusive yet, do. You can pick it up in person at Glad Day.

Erin Wunker – Write to a timer and don’t read or edit it until the next day–15 solid minutes of just writing. I love the “no judgement” aspect of this advice—there are critics a-plenty out there, whom we can trust to do their jobs, I’m sure. Non-judgement is so helpful in my own limited practice—I write at lunch time, so shutting the computer and not self-editing in the moment helps with actually getting any writing done at all. Erin also wisely advises to read others and take notes—this can be understood as a simple “do your homework” kind of tip. I’m slowly narrowing my reading lists to reflect my own situatedness with this piece of advice, from “poets” to “Canadian poets” to “Canadian women poets” to “queer Canadian women poets” to “queer Canadian women poets over forty” and the more reading, writing, and work I do to honour those writers, the closer I am to appearing on those lists. Obviously, it’s essential to read widely too, and familiarize yourself with writers whose experiences differ from yours. And supporting (and citing!) other writers is good, supportive work. Notes from a Feminist Killjoy is required reading, folks—it just is.

I’m building up a cache of kind words of encouragement for my dark moments, but “get to it, work through it, and just do it” seems to be a forceful and galvanizing mantra that fights off imposter syndrome just long enough to get some good work done. I value these tips like the golden trade secrets they are.

And in the spirit of sharing, I wish for you a stockpile of encouraging words to keep you writing, from all the writers who keep you reading.

 

Emily Sanford, visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Mehri Yalfani, Maia Caron, Clementine Morrigan, and guest speaker Bardia Sinaee who will present, “How to Read a Poem.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Writers & Performers

BWS 12.09.18: Clementine Morrigan

clementinemorrigan

Clementine Morrigan is the author of You Can’t Own the Fucking Stars, The Size of a Bird, and Rupture. They write the zine Fucking Magic and have authored dozens of other zines, articles, and essays. She is a working witch and practitioner of trauma magic. See clementinemorrigan.com for more information.

In anticipation of her September 12 appearance at our event, Clementine shares an excerpt from her new book, You Can’t Own the Fucking Stars.

Asking For It

Booze and the way that I consumed it brought me places and made me someone. Not the kind of places you would want to go to or the kind of person you would want to be. Drinking brought me to alleyways, sidewalks, barrooms, stranger’s apartments, snowbanks, park benches and bushes in a park. Drinking turned me into a kind of person who was read a certain way: as a drunk, a slut, a crazy person, a bitch, a girl who nobody cared about, a girl you could get away with doing anything to, a girl who was asking for it.

I was a horrible drunk, an obnoxious drunk, an ugly drunk, a loud drunk. I was a mean drunk, a slutty drunk, a pathetic drunk. I got kicked out of bars, thrown face first off a streetcar, punched in the face, sexually assaulted, GHB’d. I got a knife pressed up to my stomach, a condom taken off without permission, a bag of ice on my head.

Booze was an oblivion that called me endlessly. It created a world of chaos, a world where the only point of reference was a bottle. I felt perpetually unsafe to the point where feeling unsafe felt natural. It was my way of being. I was assaulted regularly and in the back of my mind I blamed myself because I was the one with the big mouth, the one asleep on the park bench, the one making a scene. I was ‘asking for it’. And I got it in plenty.

Booze and the way that I consumed it created a reality for me and those around me. There are narratives about girls like me, what we are, what we deserve, what happens to us. It is an accepted ‘truth’ that girls who put themselves in such dangerous situations are at least partially responsible for the bad things that then happen to them. This was a ‘truth’ written on my body and although it made me angry it was a truth that I also believed.

I rebelled against it by drinking more and by telling myself that I didn’t care. Violence was a language that I came to know quite well. I was crazy. I acted fucking crazy. And my craziness made me a target and simultaneously protected me. I told myself that this was a way of being that I needed and loved and that I chose freely. I told myself that this oblivion was the only thing keeping me alive and that the violence was an unpleasant side effect. An unfortunate but inevitable consequence to my chosen and beloved lifestyle.

Sometimes it slipped through the cracks of my denial that I was an alcoholic but I could not face the powerlessness of my addiction because my consumption was the only thing that gave me any power. I had control over something. I had control over the fact that I could always have more.

Now, booze and the ways I consumed it bring me to different places and make me a different person. My recovery brings me to church basements, community centres and coffee shops. My recovery makes me into the kind of person that people say things to like ‘good for you’.

Those who aren’t alcoholics themselves and who don’t know me from before say things like ‘are you sure you’re really an alcoholic?’ And ‘I’m sure you’ll be able to drink again in the future’ because they have no idea about the way that I drank and where it took me. They cannot even begin to conceive of what my reality used to look like. Other sober alcoholics don’t say things like that because they know.

I am eternally grateful for my sobriety and I know that without it I would still be experiencing violence on a regular basis. Yet this does not mean that I believe I was responsible for the violence that happened to me or deserving of it. Regardless of how fucked up I was acting, no one has the right to do the things that have been done to me. no one has the right to drag me down the stairs, pull a knife on me, grab my ass while I am asleep, put GHB in my drink, throw me off a streetcar, punch me in the face, touch my breasts without consent, pull my shirt down, throw me into a wall, smash my face with a weighted object. No one has the right to do that shit to anyone, drunk or not, addict or not. Drunks are still human beings. There is no such thing as ‘asking for it’.

While in active alcoholism I remember how strange any attempt at living a normal life felt. I remember the fear I felt that anyone might recognize me while I was sober and trying to act normal from one of my consistent drunken rampages. And now that I am in recovery it happens still, people recognize me from before. They remember the fucked up girl with unfocused eyes screaming and getting kicked off the salvation army van. They look at me now, acting normal, speaking clearly and they cannot believe that it is the same person.

But it is. That was me. So is this.

 

Clementine Morrigan, visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Mehri Yalfani, Maia Caron, Emily Sanford , and guest speaker Bardia Sinaee who will present, “How to Read a Poem.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Writers & Performers

BWS 12.09.18: Maia Caron

Maia_C

Maia Caron is the Métis author of Song of Batoche, a historical novel that was #11 on CBC’s 95 must-read books of 2017 and CBC’s 12 historical novels to read, summer 2018.

Born and raised in the mountains of British Columbia, Maia has had short stories and essays in The Dalhousie ReviewThe Nashwaak Review, the Women Awakening series, and Skeptic MagazineSong of Batoche is her first novel and was chosen by Raven Reads as their spring 2018 Read for Reconciliation. Maia lives in Toronto and is a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario.

Ahead of her September 12th appearance, Maia  tells us how she learned to write dialogue for the dead.

 

If you’re drawn to write historical fiction, you’re probably the type who enjoys minding other peoples’ business. You’re irresistibly drawn to the lost inner thoughts of those who lived and breathed on this earth long before you were born. And you’re comfortable with the idea that historical fiction is basically writing dialogue for the dead.

I was recently asked by someone on Goodreads if I could provide some insight into the research I did for Song of Batoche, my historical novel about the Métis North-West Resistance of 1885. It’s a question I’ve been asked many times, a question that I think also asks, in subtext: “What is true in this historical novel and what isn’t?”

To write Song of Batoche, I immersed myself in seven years of research. I still had research books open while working with my editor and copy editor, days before the book was going to print for advance reading copies. Why the obsession over detail when I was writing “a story?”

Early on in my research, I heard the voices of the Métis women of Batoche, some of them my own ancestors. Yet I couldn’t write a novel about the Métis North-West Resistance without including Louis Riel’s point of view. Riel is central to the Métis narrative and one of the most controversial figures in Canadian history. This put a whole lot of pressure on me to get him “right” but ultimately, Louis Riel was the most rewarding part of researching and writing Song of Batoche.

In historical texts, Riel is either demonized or sanctified. Exactly the kind of stereotypes that writers wish to avoid when fictionalizing a historical figure. The Riel whose dialogue I would write was surely not the one-dimensional traitor formed in the minds of Canadians from high school history classes taught by settlers. And not the one-dimensional hero revered as a saint by the Métis.

I read the many books about him and poured over his prodigious writings. Who was this complex man, variously described as insane, a religious zealot, a visionary, and a politically brilliant leader? It was only in curious lines in Riel’s diary or poems (such as this one that he wrote in 1866), that gave me a glimpse of his secret inner life:

I hear funeral dirges inside me.

Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, articulated her own process in writing historical fiction:

“I track the historical record so I can report the outer world faithfully – but my chief concern is with the interior drama of my characters’ lives. From history, I know what they do, but I can’t with any certainty know what they think or feel.”

The historical novelist takes notes from all of these dry historical records and, as Mantel writes, “breaks through the false wall” to connect to the hidden story.

This is an arduous process, not for the faint of heart (or eyes—all that reading!) and it’s why my next book is a psychological thriller. Come hear me read from my new work on September 12th!

 

Maia Caron visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Mehri Yalfani, Clementine Morrigan, Emily Sanford , and guest speaker Bardia Sinaee who will present, “How to Read a Poem.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Writers & Performers

BWS 12.09.18: Mehri Yalfani

Mehri

Mehri Yalfani was born in Hamadan, Iran. She graduated from Tehran University with a master degree in electrical engineering. Mehri has been living in Toronto since 1987. Her works are three collections of short stories and a novel in English and seven novels and three collections of short stories in Farsi. Many of Mehri Yalfani’s works have appeared in English and Farsi journals. Her novel, “A Palace in Paradise” is going to be published in 2019 by Inanna Publication.

Ahead of her appearance on September 12, Mehri shares an excerpt from her novel, A Palace in Paradise.

 

The books sitting in Nozar’s trunk were dear to Sara. She had spent money and time on them, enjoyed reading them, and had learned from them. She was proud of having them, considered them valuable assets, like she would a dear friend. They were something that she could count on, that gave her pleasure, joy, happiness, and they had filled the dreary days and nights when Nozar was in prison. They were her prestige, her dignity, an integral part of her life. She had shared them with Nozar, her friends, and even with people she didn’t know well, but who had read the same books—the very same books she was now going to throw away, disappearing them from her life.

Sara was quiet. It seemed to her that a film was playing in front of her, and everything looked unreal.

From the bottom step, she could see only a small part of the alley. Nozar closed the trunk of the car quietly and walked toward her. She stood up, her hands in her pockets, let Nozar hug her, kiss her forehead and lips, but she was remote. He cupped her face with his hands, looked at her in the eyes, and said, “Don’t worry. Many people are doing the same. Everybody is throwing away the books that might cause them problems. Farahzad’s and Varamin’s ditches, and even those of Shahre Ray and the roads out of Tehran, are all full of books people are throwing away. I won’t go far. I’ll be back soon.”

“I’d better come with you,” Sara said, releasing herself from Nozar’s arms with a sudden jerk. She looked at her dress and continued, “I’ll change in a minute, wear my black chador, and accompany you. With me, it will look less suspicious.”

“Don’t even think about it,” Nozar said firmly. Sara had already started climbing the steps toward the second floor. Nozar held her arm gently and continued, “Nothing will happen. I promise.”

Sara did not resist. She breathed deeply, as if she wanted to release a burden from her chest, and said, “You’re right. Many people have done the same. Last night Bahram and Kami took a few garbage bags of books out and threw them into Farahzad’s ditches. They said there were thousands of books in the highway ditches and in some other areas in the city. Those might have belonged to people who didn’t have a car to drive further out of the city. You see…” A lump in her throat and tears in her eyes prevented her from saying more.

“You see,” repeated Nozar confidently, but she could read the unspoken words in his eyes. He continued, “You’re right to be sorry to lose the books. I feel the same, but we have no choice except to get rid of them.”

 

Mehri Yalfani visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Maia Caron, Clementine Morrigan, Emily Sanford , and guest speaker Bardia Sinaee who will present, “How to Read a Poem.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Writers & Performers