BWS 13.11.19: Mary Rykov

MRykov-photobyDahliaKatz-crop

Puerto Rican-Canadian María (MaryHelena Auerbach Rykov is a writer, editor, educator, and recovering music therapist. She freelances as a writing mentor in multiple genres and proofreads for Pulp Literature Press. Her poetry collection, some conditions apply, hatches May 2020 with Inanna Publications. More at maryrykov.com.

 

Reflections on Writing: What’s Your Score?

When the late, great writer and poet, David W. McFadden, won the 2014 Giller Prize for Excellence in Poetry for What’s the Score? (Mansfield, 2013), my first poetry manuscript was still out in left field without a literary home.

“David,” I asked, “what advice can you give me?”

“Just keep writing and sending them out.”

David was right. I kept writing and sending them out. Eventually, I scored. Seven years, twelve manuscript submissions (six full manuscripts, six excepts), and three title changes later, my debut poetry collection, some conditions apply, was placed with Inanna Publications for Spring 2020. Thank you, Luciana Ricciutelli, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. What seems like a long wait is the necessary production schedule for most small presses that work with minimal staff on shoestring budgets for the love of literature. After seven long years wafting in the ethers of Submissionland, these three more years will pass quickly.

I share with you what I’ve learned about the submission process.

Know Why You Write

Writers write for many reasons. Reading and writing for me are inextricably linked. I write because I read, and I read because I write.

At the age of two I could recite the entire Tale of Peter Rabbit. By age five I was reciting the metered verse of A. A. Milne and choosing books with the children’s librarian. By age ten I wrote and illustrated my first fiction for my younger cousin on a folded piece of paper. It was about a bunny—a nod, of course, to my beloved Peter Rabbit—although not a plagiarized knock-off. Many writers, after all, learn to write by imitation.

Throughout public school I buried myself in books to avoid bullying from classmates. I was poor, poorly dressed, tiny, and easy to pick on. Mercifully, the children’s books in my piano teacher’s study compensated for the books I didn’t read under the controlling eyes of the wicked-witch-of-all-librarians at my junior public school.

In high school I wrote poetry and songs influenced by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Buffy St. Marie, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Richard Fariña, Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, et. al., back in the early days of Margaret Atwood, CanLit, and CanCon before the internet. Sadly, my English teachers, although an improvement over grade school, were not stellar. Nor was I a diligent student.

In university I wrote research papers. I became a music therapist and wrote reports, proposals, and more research papers. I also wrote songs—many songs—throughout the 35-year tenure of my clinical music therapy practice. But the poetry in these songs was functionally pragmatic, not necessarily artistic.

I often turned to poetry and fiction as an antidote to the dry research I needed to read to keep up with my field. I didn’t write for art’s sake until much later. My first literary poems published in 2010. My first flash fiction and nonfiction prose published in 2016. I’ve snagged some awards for these literary efforts along the way.

But publication and prizes are not why I write. I realize I write because I have always written. And I always write in response to what I experience—what I think, see, read, hear, and feel. As a music therapist I needed to write research, journal articles, think pieces, proposals, and support letters advocating on behalf of patients and clients. Now I write for art’s sake.

Know Where You Submit and Why

Nothing gets accomplished without taking care of business. Much ink has gone into distinguishing between the art of writing and the business of writing [read: submitting]. The art of writing in the absence of the business of submission is equivalent to a story consisting of accumulated events with no plot or resolution.

Submit writing strategically. Know that journal editors and book publishers are people just like writers. Indeed, many are themselves writers and poets. If not writers or poets, they do love reading.

Read the journal and book publications where you plan to submit. Familiarize yourself with their editorial preferences. And pay attention to submission calls and the writing of guest editors. Submit where you want to join the conversation.

Submissions vary, typically comprising a cover letter and the writing content. Submission guidelines matter; read these carefully. Include in the cover letter all information requested, but be concise. Personalize your submission cover letter with positive comments about past issues or books you particularly enjoyed reading. Editors and publishers work slavishly and deserve support. I repeat: be concise.

Do not ask for or expect critique for the writing you submit to literary journals and publishing houses. They are far too busy to routinely provide feedback. Grow your writing skills in workshops and courses designed for this purpose. Be grateful, however, for any unsolicited advice and encouragement you do receive.

Submit writing that is ready for publication. I submitted my first poems and stories as I wrote them, which was premature. Few of these early [read: rudimentary, undeveloped] pieces of writing were published. These submissions did, however, stoke the coffers of Canada Post and some journals for reading fees.

Speaking of fees…

Reading submission fees for journals are increasingly more common. Writers must support the infrastructure of the literary arts by buying books, journals, and tickets to readings. I have bought my weight in books and subscriptions many times over. Sometimes, however, I must rotate subscriptions amongst my favourite journals or cannot afford them at all. Sometimes I cant submit when a reading or contest fee is required. Understandably, I win few prizes. I do the best I can.

But do as I say, not as I do. Do pay reading and contest submission fees if you can. Subscribe and donate to your favourite journals and literary reading series and festivals. They all need your support.

Help other writers by pointing out potential submission opportunities. Help them, and they will help you in kind.

Rejection Happens

Embrace Margaret Atwood’s boast that she could wallpaper her office with the rejection notices she received. Rejection is an inevitable consequence of submitting. Consider your writing submissions as your personal lottery ticket, one that you have a chance of winning only if you submit. Consider rejection as an opportunity to re-submit.

An experiential conference workshop with dance therapist Judith Koltai-Peavy enlightened me. She instructed us to prance around the room to energetic music, greeting everyone we encountered with Hi, do you want to play with me? to which we respond Yes! After an improvised dance, we move on to repeat this interchange with the next person. We were subsequently directed to respond No! when asked if we wanted to play, to which the seeker responds Okay! and gleefully dances to the next person. I realize with this exercise that rejection needn’t be hurtful and that seeking with a playful spirit matters more.

Journal editors carefully curate each issue. Your writing must fit the tenor of the journal generally, as well as be a good fit with the other writing in any single journal issue. Rejection doesn’t mean your submission is unworthy, but it may be a poor fit for a particular editorial vision.

So, what’s a good fit?

Publication is a quirky, whimsical, and mercurial process. Almost nonsensical. Here’s just how capricious this process can be. A journal accepted one poem I sent from amongst a submission of five poems. When marking the acceptance in my records, I noticed the very same poem was amongst another submission of five poems I had sent to the same journal one year earlier. Seriously. The very same poem that was accepted for publication was rejected by the same journal the year before. Go figure.

Don’t give up. Regardless of the writing genre, embrace David McFadden’s advice to “just keep writing and sending them out.” This task is part of the business of writing.

Celebrate Acceptance

Publication, like punctuation, is where writing logically ends.

Acceptance brings credibility, affirmation, and welcome monetary compensation (however small) to offset the high cost of printer ink. Savour each acceptance, but don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t stop writing and submitting.

When publication entails a process of editorial back-and-forth and final page proofs, welcome this opportunity to work with the editor, knowing he or she has experience with many writers. Embrace this close scrutiny of your work. Consider the suggestions offered.

Acknowledge all success without falling prey to jealousy. Celebrate your success and the successes of all the writers you know. We’re all in this together.

What’s Your Score?

Seven years since writing for art’s sake, here’s how my numbers crunched as of June 2017 when my manuscript was finally placed.

Rejections:

67 journals rejected 476 poems (some simultaneous), 1 short story, and 1 essay; 11 publishers rejected various iterations of 1 poetry manuscript

Published or Forthcoming:

23 poems in 3 anthologies and 8 journals; 2 flash fiction in 2 journals; 2 essays in 2 journals; 1 poetry collection

Active Submissions:

35 poems (some simultaneous) to 13 journals; 1 short story to 3 journals; 1 nonfiction book proposal

I invite you to tally your score and embrace the reality check. Better still, Merlin Homer (David’s widow) suggests engaging in friendly competition amongst your writer friends to see who can accumulate the most rejection notices one year from when you begin. Try it.

With a heartfelt thanks to David McFadden, let’s all keep writing and sending them out.

 

Mary Rykov visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Andrea Thompson, Deepa Rajagopalan, a special surprise guest, and guest speaker Catalina Fellay-Dunbar who will guide us through, “ A Beginners Guide to Toronto Arts Literary Grants.” 

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BWS 13.11.19: Deepa Rajagopalan

Deepa R

Deepa Rajagopalan writes creative non-fiction and short stories. Her work has appeared in the Dionne Brand anthologyThe Unpublished City II. She’s currently working towards her Creative Writing certificate at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. She was a finalist of the Penguin Random House Award for Fiction in 2018.

Sometimes the hardest letters you will write are to the ones who will never read them. Deepa tried her best, her very best, not to write this. She scrolled through Instagram, watched baby goat videos and reorganized her bookshelf several times (alphabetical by author’s name, ombre-colour-coded, increasing degree of seriousness) instead of writing this. But it eventually came out of her, like a river swelling during a flood.

 

Beginnings and Ends

The first time we bring you home, you’re two-weeks-old and I’m fourteen. You can’t sit still in the rickshaw ride home. I hold you tight to keep you safe. The Indian sun burns through the soft-top roof, leaving the insides of the rickshaw parched and muggy. I wipe the incessant beads of sweat on my forehead with my sleeve to keep them from falling on you.

Our home is tucked into a cul-de-sac, backing into an abandoned property. I bring you into my room and you nap and eat and pee there for a whole day. I show you off. I bathe and feed you. I love seeing you grow. You love running up the stairs and into people. You’re fast as light. You seem to be in two places at the same time. Your spirits are always high. Life is a song.

A few months later, on a Sunday afternoon, Mom bakes a chocolate cake that leaves the house smelling like sunshine. She lets it cool on the counter. Later, we find the cake on the floor, half eaten, and you beside it with a guilty face. I suddenly remember that chocolate is toxic for you and start screaming. Mom calls the vet who tells us to give you lots of water and keep an eye on you.

My little sister, Shilpa, asks Mom if she could eat the rest of the cake. I glare at her. Her timing is always flawed. I hold you tight, your beautiful black fur glistening under the sun. Shilpa and Mom fuss over you, too. You love the extra attention. You sleep through the night. We dont. The next morning you are as fresh as a mango in May.

You’re six months old and fully grown. The property behind our home is seething with green after the endless monsoons. Coconut trees, creepers, weeds, moss and more. One sweltering afternoon, Mom hangs damp clothes on the clothesline. I see through the window, a quick slithering flash. I find Mom locked in a gaze with a silver cobra, standing up four feet high. It flares out its hood, in position to release venom. Before I can gather my thoughts, I hear you race to the backyard. With no fanfare, with no racket, you attack. A quick bite on its neck. As it wiggles for its last few breaths, your barks are deafening. You can’t believe the audacity of the creature. I hug Mom and don’t let her go. I wonder what we did to deserve you.

***

At sixteen, I am groped and attacked by a stranger in an alley. My body heals faster than my soul. I am a different person. I stop loving myself overnight and start looking for people to love me. I spend all my energy trying to cope. I ignore you for boys and exams and insecurities. You just want to play, but I am too busy for you. Mom bathes you and feeds you. I resist your love.

On a monsoon day after I turn eighteen, I forget my umbrella. I come home drenched and cold and realize I forgot my keys, too. I don’t have a cell phone to call Mom. The plants weigh down with the deluge. Where our garden once thrived, the mud water has formed an array of intricate streams, gushing out in search for a lower ground, leaving my legs muddy and cold. I take off my mud-soaked shoes and sit on the porch. I hug my knees into my chest and tears start gushing. I can’t pinpoint one reason for this downpour. You run towards me. You sit on my lap and take in all the cold and make me warm. You keep your paw over my hand and look at me with eyes that tell me, clear like fresh water, “I am here for you. Always.”

One opportunity leads to another, and we move to Toronto. My uncle and aunt agree to care for you back in India. I call my uncle and he says you lay on Dad’s shoes, crying silently, his sock in your mouth for months until all of his smell was gone.

The Canadian winter makes me resentful. All the things I do, I do incorrectly. The way I layer for winter, the way I order a double-double at Timmes, the way I go on the northbound train when I have to go southbound. I don’t get one thing right.

Years pass and I actively avoid thinking of you. On Sundays, I clean a lot. The floors, countertops, stairs, inside drawers and cabinets. One morning, I polish the hardwood floors with floor gloss. Against Dad’s recommendation, I polish the stairs too. In a short few minutes, I fall down the slippery stairs. Dad doesn’t say I told you so and gets me a pain balm.

That evening, I call Uncle and Aunty and they say you got a stomach bug. I have a client presentation, and I am too busy preparing. I don’t think of you. I spend the whole week not thinking of you. That Friday, we receive a call from Uncle.

“She had a surgery yesterday, and it went well.

He pauses, the silence hanging like tiny shards of glass.

“She ate well and seemed okay.” He sighs. But she passed away in her sleep.

I feel like I’m choking. I wail. Years of not thinking bursts out of my consciousness, all at once. I cry so loudly, the neighbours can hear me. Guilt. It runs deep through my veins, the kind that is here to stay.

I can’t believe I left you. I can’t believe I went for months without thinking of you. I can’t believe I did nothing to protect you. I can’t believe I never told you I loved you. I can’t believe that you are gone. I know I hurt you. But I also know that you forgave me and that hurts the most.

***

Deepa Rajagopalan visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Andrea Thompson, Mary Rykov, a special surprise guest, and guest speaker Catalina Fellay-Dunbar who will guide us through, “ A Beginners Guide to Toronto Arts Literary Grants.” 

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BWS 13.11.19: Andrea Thompson

In White from FB_Aug19 Black and White

Photo credit: Terri Quinn

Andrea Thompson is the recipient of the League’s 2019 Golden Beret Award, was the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word’s 2009 Poet of Honour, and in 2005 was nominated for a Canadian Urban Music Award. She’s the author of the novel Over Our Heads and the spoken word CDsSoulorations and One. See her website and IG (andreathompsonpoet) for more info.

 

I first combined poetry and photography back in the 90s. I went to see a Barbara Kruger exhibit in New York and was super inspired. So I took a corrector ribbon (like the love-child of typewriter ribbon and correction tape) typed out my poem, reversed it, cut it up and pasted it with some graphics around a photograph I took of Trout Lake in Vancouver.

1 Bird Watching

Fast forward to this past summer, when my teenage niece, took pity on me and offered to help me figure out how Instagram works. When I told her I wanted to post images, she said I needed to change the settings on my phone to give Instagram access to my camera. I was all like – hey, hold up!I told her how I had a bad habit of taking pictures of ridiculous (and sometimes embarrassing) things by accident – the visual equivalent of a pocket call. We found a way around my concern, and then had a brief but enlightening conversation about the concept of “privacy”. Now, let me say – this girl is unusually bright and well read, yet I could tell from her response that my understanding of “privacy” was pretty much foreign to her. I was a little horrified to find that, as Orwell foresaw and wrote about with such chilling elegance in Nineteen Eighty-Four, some words don’t mean what they used to anymore. 

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 So anyway…. after that chat, my brilliant niece taught me how to create collages using an app. I’ve been having a lot of fun with the process, and it’s opened me up creatively in unanticipated ways – I’m writing shorter poems and thinking more about how the world looks. I’m hoping I can also inspire my nephew to start posting some of his stuff too. He’s a wonderful young poet. He kinda blew my mind the first time I read his work. I’m sure he’d be mortified I’m telling you this, so I won’t mention his name here – but I really hope he starts sharing his work with the world…

3 Leaves_Collage

In the meantime… here’s a sample of what I’ve cooked-up. You can check out more on my Instagram page if you’re into it. I’m at @andreathompsonpoet

4 PigeonWoman_Collage

5_Intersectionality_Collage

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Andrea Thompson visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Deepa Rajagopalan, Mary Rykov, a special surprise guest, and guest speaker Catalina Fellay-Dunbar who will guide us through, “ A Beginners Guide to Toronto Arts Literary Grants.” 

 

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Brockton Writers Series 13.11.19

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Andrea Thompson

Deepa Rajagopalan

Mary Rykov

Special Guest Reader TBA!

with special guest speaker

Catalina Fellay-Dunbar

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.

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

 

GUEST SPEAKER

“A Beginners Guide to Toronto Arts Council Literary Grants”

 

Catalina Fellay-Dunbar

Catalina Fellay-Dunbar joined the Toronto Arts council after many years as a dancer, writer, educator and arts advocate. Her professional dance experience, although varied, has long focused on a personal lineage in Flamenco and Classical Spanish dance.  Translating the experience of movement into words launched a parallel writing career as a contributor to journals, magazines and anthologies on the topics of dance, identity, and cultural policy. She loves her present role in the arts community as Dance and Literary Grants Manager for the TAC.

READERS

In White from FB_Aug19 Black and WhiteAndrea Thompson is the recipient of the League’s 2019 Golden Beret Award, was the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word’s 2009 Poet of Honour, and in 2005 was nominated for a Canadian Urban Music Award. She’s the author of the novel Over Our Heads and the spoken word CDs, Soulorations and One. See her website and IG (andreathompsonpoet) for more info.

 

 

 

Deepa RDeepa Rajagopalan writes creative non-fiction and short stories. Her work has appeared in the Dionne Brand anthology, The Unpublished City II. She’s currently working towards her Creative Writing certificate at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. She was a finalist of the Penguin Random House Award for Fiction in 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

MRykov-photobyDahliaKatz-cropPuerto Rican-Canadian María (Mary) Helena Auerbach Rykov is a writer, editor, educator, and recovering music therapist. She freelances as a writing mentor in multiple genres and proofreads for Pulp Literature Press. Her poetry collection, some conditions apply, hatches May 2020 with Inanna Publications. More at maryrykov.com.

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BWS 11.09.19 report: “Notes on Beautiful Collaboration in Playwriting or “I Wrote This, Please Make It Alive and Ephemeral (But Also Do It Perfectly and Exactly How I Imagined It Every Single Time)” with Rosamund Small

Rosamund headshot by Liam Coo

Photo: Liam Coo

Rosamund Small is the playwright of Sisters (Soulpepper), TomorrowLove™ (Outside the March), and Vitals (Outside the March/Theatre Passe Muraille, Dora for Outstanding New Play/Outstanding Production). She has written in many forms, and loves to experiment with dramatic fiction, verbatim, immersive/site-specific, solo, and anything in between. She collaborates on dance/theatre work with choreographer Robert Binet (their work Orpheus Alive premieres November 2019 at the National Ballet of Canada). Rosamund is a Jr Story Editor of Workin’ Moms on CBC/Netflix.

Playwrights are simultaneously the most and least important element of the theatre. They may be the loudest voice in the rehearsal hall, or dead for five hundred years before auditions even begin. 

In anticipation of Orpheus Alive, premiering this November at the National Ballet of Canada, Rosamund opened up about the process behind her collaboration with choreographer Robert Binet.

 

I am spending my mornings lately trying to write like a dancer.

To explain this, I am going to tell you about my collaboration with a ballet choreographer named Robert Binet.

Rob’s friend of mine. We met about seven years ago. We chatted at a party, then met over coffee, and we talked about work. About all of it. My writing, my rehearsals, previews, openings. And he talked about the making of dance, the training, the talking to dancers. There were immediate and apparent differences in our lives:

I spent my days, and still spend my days, hunched over a computer, to the point that I’ve had to consult with extremely expensive physiotherapists. Rob spends his days at a ballet bar or the gym, then the studio, working with dancers.

In his work, Rob is always demonstrating, speaking, guiding, and running a rehearsal hall as his creation space. He is alive outward into the world, while I am almost aggressively hidden from all other people while I write.

So it wasn’t obvious on paper that we would have all that much in common.

But when we talked, we realized we had our relationship with our audience, our relationship with our performers, and finally our relationship with drama to talk about. And by drama, I mean, the tension between two people. The desire to demonstrate or illustrate that moment when Person A expresses I want you to stay and the Person B expresses I want you to let me go, for example. And then the further tension: the what now?

By the end of the conversation Rob was the one who blurted out I didn’t realize we have the same job. And we both actually felt a little alarmed, as though the other person had maybe seen through us, him seeing through my words to something he could do with bodies, and me seeing through the shapes he makes with bodies to articulate them in words. There’s almost a deflating effect, actually, even though it was exhilarating, to be so totally seen. But it was also, electrifying.

As I was writing this, I realized it sounds like this will end with me and Rob falling in love, but it doesn’t, and we both remain happily with our respective partners. But when I describe Rob I’ve had many people think we’re in a relationship. I think it says something nice: Creative partnerships have a sense of excitement, even combativeness, and they are always, in a way, romantic.

Anyway, after our first coffee, Rob invited me into his rehearsal hall for a workshop. And I went in to watch him with two dancers from the National Ballet interpret the myth of Icarus, in a fifteen-minute piece. And that was the start of our collaboration. I didn’t really know what he wanted me to do, but we began talking and talking and talking.

What is the story? What order should it be in? How long should it be? Who’s the main character?

The myth of Icarus goes as follows: A man and his son are trapped in prison. The father builds wings made of wax, to escape. It works, and they fly out of the prison, across the ocean. But Icarus flies to close to the sun, the wings melt, and Icarus falls and perishes.

So I ask Rob: Why do they decide to escape? Why today? What are the conditions of the prison? How long have they been there? What is their home like? Is there any particular reason they have to get home? Are they close as father and son? Whose fault is it that they are imprisoned?

We had a few bumps, a few differences in vocabulary, especially at the beginning. I will never forget Rob’s look of confusion as I kept asking him What are the stakes of successfully flying? What are the stakes that make them leave prison? And finally, he said “I don’t want to sound stupid but what are stakes? Like, steaks? Like a steak?”.*

That first project was performed for a choreographic workshop audience, and remains a beautiful memory. But truthfully, I don’t know whether I made the project better by being there. In fact, I may have made is not quite as good as it might have been without me. Because what I kept asking Rob was what is the information?

What is the information? What is the situation? Who what where when how?

The given circumstances are so important to writers. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I sometimes tipped the balance of the project away from dance -shape, tension, movement- and towards something more like mime.

Nothing against mime. I don’t know a lot about mime.

But the ability of dance, at least Rob’s dance, does not lie in the ability to silently enact the world. It is about enacting what we experience but we cannot see in the world. It’s just about the drama. And the drama in the most fundamental way.

So, basically, I had to stop worrying as much about the stuff offstage:

What came before? What might come after? What if, how, when, where.

Dance is about tension, movement, release, let go, trust, pull away, push… there is nothing between two dancers except the relationship between them, in that moment.

We talk a lot about history between characters in theatre, and in lots of writing. And we talk about internal dialogue. And maybe childhood things coming out in adults. And that is beautiful, and wonderful, but I have found in my collaboration with Rob I am thinking more and more about how thrilling and relatable and inherently story it is, to watch one dance balance on one foot, for a long, long time. And how that is what’s at stake, for a moment, it’s… Will you fall? Will you release? Will you clamp up?

The drama of dance is wholly and completely present, like the drama in the life of a toddler. Big emotion, big situation, very little interest in why how when where or who.

Now, I am deep into a larger project with Rob about the myth of Orpheus. We have about forty-five dancers in every performance, closer to sixty with all the casts. And we are still interrogating the story as I did with our first project. In fact, we first talked about this Orpheus project at our coffee seven years ago, when Rob first mentioned he wanted to adapt the myth as his first full story ballet.

The myth goes like this: Orpheus is the greatest artist in the world. Orpheus’ lover Eurydice dies. So Orpheus travels to the gates of the underworld, and creates art so incredible that the gates swing open and The Gods let him through, on one condition: Orpheus cannot not to look at Eurydice until they are back in the land of the living. Orpheus finds Eurydice, and begins to lead her out. But at the last moment, Orpheus can’t help but turn and look, and so Eurydice is gone forever.

I am still asking my annoying questions, and I’ve been asking them seven years:

What kind of relationship does Orpheus have with Eurydice? How long have they been together? How old are they? What kind of art does Orpheus do? How long does it take to travel to the gates of death? How long does it take to travel over the River Styx into the underworld? Do you pay a fare? Do you walk? Is it cold?

But I have learned, through my collaboration, to pull back the scope of those questions, and ask something that can be more connected to that body-spirit experience of dance, toddlers, animals, when the chatty mind is hushed and the body is more simply present. So the creative conversation can be more like this:

Why does Orpheus go get Eurydice?

Because Orpheus is in a state of suspension –high on pointe and without Eurydice, Orpheus will fall off pointe, there will be a splat on the floor.

That’s all, that’s it, it’s obvious.

The expression of this situation, and the reality of it, are actually the same.

The metaphor doesn’t need to stand for something, as it can stand on its own.

The above example is a little over simple, a little under appreciative of the complexity of dance. It’s the most obvious metaphor: the sense that a jump might end in a fall. It’s simply the easiest dance moment to describe.

Another example goes something like this:

The story question: Why does Orpheus go get Eurydice?

The story answer: Because Orpheus loves Eurydice.

The dance looks like: Orpheus is pulled towards Eurydice.

But the question is unnecessary. Because you can also think of it as:

The dance looks like: Orpheus is pulled towards Eurydice.

The question is: Why does he go?

The answer: Because he is pulled.

The dance looks like: Orpheus is pulled towards Eurydice.

The drama doesn’t need a question. The motivation is built in.

At least, that’s the working theory for now, when we’re stuck. When the questions can’t be answered, or the answers are not the most beautiful and exciting but somehow must be there, Rob and I lean on the inherent drama of throwing your body across the floor, as being the answer and the question.

If you are interested the show is this November at the Four Seasons Centre and you can come see how our process worked out.

The show also -to maybe break my point about bodies being so important- uses text, but not for the dancers to speak to each other, only for the dancers to speak to the audience, when they need to express something more concrete and less… danceable. Something more about the who what where when why of drama.

But our dancers -to each other- have relationships expressed in bodies only. The drama between them is only dance. And the dance overtakes the language in almost every moment. The bodies win.

I hear myself using words to explain the expression of bodies like child, or animal, as though the communication between bodies is less than the communication of language. But actually, how much of our most important adult communications are touch, hug, fight, fist on table, even sex...? All of this is in the body.

So now when I write dialogue for two characters, meant for two actors onstage, I often try to push myself back from my hunched over computer chair, and think to myself…

Why does my character want to marry this other character so much?

And instead of inventing an external explanation about why and giving my characters a strong rationale, or history, I have a conversation with my character:

CHARACTER: Why do I desire to marry this other character so much?

ME: Because of desire.

CHARACTER: Why do I desire him?

ME: Because you are pulled towards him, you are literally pulled.

CHARACTER: By what?

ME: I don’t know. But aren’t you?

CHARACTER: Yes.

ME: Will you resist the pull?

CHARACTER: I can’t talk right now, I’m hurling my entire self towards the character I desire.

Fewer questions, more actions. Less rationale, more risk.

Write like a dancer.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BWS 11.09.19: Charlene Challenger

Charlene Challenger - photo by Russell Challenger

Photo: Russell Challenger

Charlene Challenger is a writer and graduate of Ryerson Theatre School. Her first novel, the young adult fantasy The Voices in Between, was nominated for the 2015 Aurora Award for Best Young Adult Novel and long-listed for the 2015 Sunburst Award Young Adult Novel category. Its sequel, The Myth in Distance, was published in 2016. Her work is also featured in Stone Skin Press’s Gods, Memes and Monsters. She lives in Pickering with her family and her adorable house-wolves.

 

In anticipation of her reading at our event next week, Charlene shares an excerpt from a short story called Made Flesh, written for an anthology showcasing QUILTBAG speculative fiction.

 

Drs. Colby and Gahan are robotics engineers, though they could also be lovers. Their workshop is a rented corner of a converted warehouse on the east side of town. It used to be a shelter for the transient and the infirm, until the New Millennials could no longer abide the lack of return on their investment and gunned the poor bastards down in the streets. The downtown core still hums with the triumph of that brightest April morning.

Colby and Gahan have access to better facilities; as New Millennials, they’re entitled to seize assets and resources from card-carrying Xs and Ys anywhere within the NM borders. But laboratories are popular locations for the rave scene — still going strong, all baggy pants and baby dummies — and Colby and Gahan don’t care much for rubbing elbows with anyone on ecstasy.

In this summertime afternoon, the stale air leaves a film on the women’s faces, on their arms and shoulders. When they work on the android’s hands — on its modified spherical joints — when they wire its phalanges so that they twitch and beckon the way they’re supposed to, Drs. Colby and Gahan slap palms and half hug in the shade, where the air is slightly cooler.

Colby has a sculpted fairness that comes with hours of preening. She’s flagrantly selfish, greedy with her sleep. She is also sharp, and cultivated her intelligence at her own pace through the luxury of beauty, and the patience of others that it affords her. She designed, among other parts, the android’s hands.

Gahan specializes in building them, controlling them. Her thin fingers and keen eyesight are perfect for the fabrication process. One day soon, though, she’ll move on to skin: at night she slathers the rough, scaly areas of her body in balms and creams, and leaves an oily imprint of the side of her face on her pillow.

These days in particular are days of shameless excess. It’s the New Millennial Revolution, the fourth year of a ten year period. There will be no eleventh; everyone knows there will be nothing left.

Colby and Gahan take their commission very seriously, but that doesn’t stop them from taking turns holding the android’s hand and using it for obscene jokes. Dr. Colby pretends to pick her nose with an index finger; Dr. Gahan freezes in mock embarrassment as she holds the hand against the front of her jeans, two of its digits extended in a crass “V”. They admire its tendons, its pistons, and the soft clicking sound its fleshless knuckles make as they move.

Tacked onto the cork board next to Colby’s designs of legs and feet is the official letter from an eccentric, Mr. Ryan, commissioning an android.

Colby merely skimmed the letter upon receipt, while Gahan read it closely and highlighted several passages. “I’ve selected you,” and “I’m a long-time admirer of your work,” then, “To commemorate the fourth of ten years of the New Millennial Revolution, I ask you to design and build an android which embodies our recent, sordid, abandoned relationship with patriarchy and patriarchal ideology. The android will be unveiled at the Fifth Year celebration, tentatively scheduled for April 15.”

“A man sent this?” Colby asked as Gahan read the letter aloud, emphasizing what she took to be its finer divulgences.

“Male.” Gahan tapped at the page. “Self-hating male at that. Incredibly bored. Probably shit in bed.”

“What is he going do with a patriarchal android? Burn it as an effigy? Why do that? We won.”

“He could buy a mannequin for less. My theory is he wants to enslave it. Get it to fetch his slippers and shave his back, that kind of thing.”

Colby leaned a naked forearm against the workshop counter and began to doodle on the back of a torn envelope with a 2B graphite pencil. “So, a fetishist.”

“Exactly. Equal loathing and longing. At first I el-oh-elled, but it’s a lot of money. I don’t really want to turn it down.”

“I’m sure Maria wouldn’t want you to turn it down either.”

Gahan gaped at Colby, who didn’t look up from her sketch. “One dinner out with us and you’ve got her pegged, eh? So she likes shark fin soup, so what? Have you ever seen a shark up close? They’re terrifying and the ocean’s full of them.”

“It’s not just the shark fin soup. She wears fur. Eats veal.”

“So what? We can eat as much veal and wear as much fur as we want. You wear fur and eat veal. And horse, I’d like to add. The riots may be over but I’m still a pescatarian. And a pacifist.”

“I only mean it’s difficult to keep a girlfriend like Maria from chewing her own hand off from ennui,” said Colby. “The rest of us can occupy ourselves with other things, but Maria’s…” She put the end of her pencil against her bottom lip and turned it, pinwheeling the skin. “I don’t think she gets the concept of varied personal interests.”

“She has a liberal arts degree. That’s plenty varied. You never talk to her anyway, you don’t know.”

“I know why you want this job.” Colby held up the envelope. Her sketch was the first of several of the android’s eye, sliced open, its veins — its wires — webbed around an expanse of synthetic aqueous humour.

Gahan snorted. “You’re always so quick to slit a throat. What do you do when you’re done, bathe in the blood?”

“What do you think of this?” Colby said, waving the envelope.

“Nice. Rudimentary, but nice. What colour?”

“What else? Pale blue.”

“Brown,” Gahan said. “I’m so over blue. All that Nazi imagery’s played out. It takes all types, anyway. My mother’s eyes are brown.”

“And she’s always lived in a very big house. All right, brown.” Colby tacked the envelope to the cork board.

 

Charlene Challenger visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Catherine Hernandez, Anubha Mehta, Téa Mutonji, and guest speaker Rosamund Small who gives us “Notes on Beautiful Collaboration in Playwriting” or “I Wrote This, Please Make It Alive and Ephemeral (But Also Do It Perfectly and Exactly How I Imagined It Every Single Time). Playwrights are simultaneously the most and least important element of the theatre. They may be the loudest voice in the rehearsal hall, or dead for five hundred years before auditions even begin. 

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BWS 11.09.19: Téa Mutonji

Tea

Photo: Sandro Pehar

Born in Congo-Kinsasha, Téa Mutonji is an author, screenwriter, essayist and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Walrus, Room Magazine, Joyland, and The Puritan. Her debut collection, Shut Up You’re Pretty (Spring, 2019) is the first title published under Vivek Shraya’s imprint, VS. Books. She writes, and gets lost in Toronto.

 

I relied on a lot of auditive and visual thinking when writing Shut Up You’re Pretty. I picture Loli and especially Jolie, as these unhinged, totally fearless, crazy haired girls walking down the street to something punk rock but also soul. This image was so strong I feel it stayed with me throughout the creation process. And of course, I listened to so much music to keep me entertained while writing. Loli goes on quite the journey. If this collection could be anything else, it would be a movie. If this collection could be anything else, it would be a musical. It’s a good thing this collection is a collection, because it means that it’s free—of form, of decisions, free to move and sing if it wants too. I have a feeling that if given the chance, Loli would do it all over again. I hope this soundtrack guides you in feeling Loli’s feelings every step of the way. I hope you check it out after reading a particular story. I hope it excites you, cares for you. Most of these songs have some serious throwback vibes, and SZA’s Ctrl being a dominant voice for Loli. It’s light, it’s sometimes sad. It’s inviting you to dance.

 

THE SOUNDTRACK TO LOLI’S LIFE

Tits for Cigs: Cherry Bomb, The Runaways

“Hello Daddy, Hello mom, I’m your chch-cherry bomb!”

The feel of this song reminds me of Loli and Jolie’s spirit. Life, in every respect, is good and cruising. They’re vibrant, and rebellious. I like the chaos and background nose in Cherry Bomb. It’s a great kickoff to the collection, offers just enough drama and teenage logic.

Parchment Paper: Touch-a touch-a touch me, Susan Sarandon

“Thrill me chill me fulfill me, creature of the night”

Oh, Loli has just discovered masturbation! However odd and weird it was, let’s put that aside for a second. She’s now exploring with a toothbrush, a brush, anything that look phallic. I love the carefree, light, and energy in this song. It’s an accurate mood distinguisher for Loli’s beating heart.

The Event: She Works Hard for The Money, Donna Summer

“She works hard for her money, so you better treat her right!”

Loli and Jolie are out there living and striving. They’re enjoying this sense of freedom that comes with the nearing of summer vacation. The spring heat at its finest. The music of their lives is still pretty high, pretty dance heavy, focusing their energy entirely on their bodies and their willingness to exercise it.

Down The Lakeshore: Cold Little Heart, Michael Kiwanuka

“It tears me apart. Did you ever fight it? All the pain, so much power, running through my veins.”

The cool, whispery, can-hear-the-ocean-speaking vocals of this song by Michael Kiwanuka is perfect. You have a father figure who is stuck in the past, who puts bandages on open wounds before disinfecting them first. I especially like the Outro: “Maybe this time, I can go far, but thinking about where I’ve been, ain’t helping me start.” Verbatim, thoughts straight from a broken father’s mouth.

If Not Happiness: Normal Girl, SZA

“And don’t you happiness is not a place, it’s a road to take and who you choose to walk it with.” Wise words from SZA. The moment Jolitta realized for herself that happiness wasn’t a place, and not necessarily a state of mind, but instead, the journey we take. And Jolietta, at fourteen years old, decides to skip town and take the journey. This is where we leave her. This is all we know so far.

This Is Only Temporary: I Heard Em’ Say, Kanye West

“They say people in your life are seasons and anything that happen is for a reason.” This Kanye West song, when Kanye had real shit to say, tracks for Galloway. This song talks about temporarily, it takes about hearing the nose and choosing to live your life anyways. It talks about survival, it talks about community, it takes about bringing people in, and keeping them there.

Phyllis Green: Pretty Little Birds, SZA

“You are but a phoenix among feathers, you’re broken by the waves among the sea [etc]. Pretty birds, you hit the window a few times.”

I imagine Loli singing this love note to Phyllis Green. I imagine, in her inability to connect with Phyllis, in her uncomfortableness and severe insecurities, she sees a lot of herself in Phyllis and hopes for the both of them that, “when morning comes, if morning comes, I hope you’re still mine.” But I think, instead of mine, Loli mines, “I hope you’re still yours.”

Ten Year Reunion: Place Des Grandes Hommes, Patrick Bruel

“On s’etait dit rendez-vous dans 10 ans, même jour, même heure, mêmes pommes.” There’s a line from this song directly in this story. It’s about the promise of a future. It’s about the promise of love and commiting to that promise.

Theresa’s Getting Married: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

The friendship between Theresa is special in so many ways. Notably, they seem to communicate without saying much. A lot of their love is felt stubly. I love the chemistry from this song. It’s a feel good song. And the message that it speaks, that together, we can do anything, it really resonates with me.

The Boy From My Youth: After Laughter, Wendy Rene

“When you’re in love, you’re happy.” This story is kind of interesting. So much happens, and yet, so little action. Loli is learning about her immediate needs. She’s learning about her desires. This is where the music and overall feel of the book start to shift. The light and carelessness of Loli is starting to fade.

The Common Room: All the Things She Said, t.A.T.u.

“I’m in serious shit, I feel totally lost, if I’m asking for help, it’s only because, being with you has opened my eyes, could I ever believe such a perfect surprise?” This song is such a queer girl anthem. Loli doesn’t address her sexuality in words. Mostly because she’s been experimenting with both girls and boys at such a young age, it never seemed necessary to make a deal out of it. But she meets Olivia and her life is morphing into something new. Olivia is feeding her in ways that Jolie couldn’t.

Men, Tricks and Money: Lady Marmalade, LaBelle

Voulez-vous couches avec moi?” What about the stories of sex workers who love their lives, their freedom and their finance? Loli has no shame, no trouble, no fear.

The Waitress: Everybody Hurts, R.E.M.

“When the day is long and the night is yours alone, when you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life, well hang on.”

At this stage in her life, Loli is recognizing her own depression, her struggle with mental wellness, though, still has no words for it. Instead, she watches as the world attempts to stand on its own feet.

Shut Up You’re Pretty: Anything SZA

This is the most difficult story to score. Really, I think this one story is musicless. There isn’t any song to accompany the reality of this story. There isn’t anything at all.

Women Talking: Survivor, Destiny’s Child

“Thought that I would self-destruct but I’m still here.”

This story ends before it begins. What you have is two women coming together to offer each other unsolicited support. And they leave this interaction better for it.

Old Fashioned: Weekend, SZA

My man is my man is your man, Her, this her man too, My man is my man is your man
Her, that’s her man, Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I just keep him satisfied through the weekend, You’re like 9 to 5, I’m the weekend” I mean, verbatim, the song lyrics from SZA’s weekend is word for word this story unfolding. Add a dash of bourbon and you have a perfect merger. An big alternative to this would have been Bottle or Me by Dee Dee Sharp. That’s another fabulous song for Loli.

Sober Party: Sober & Sober II, Lorde

“Sometimes I feel like, my only friend is the city I live in, the city of angels.”

Okay, Loli is hitting rock bottom but also picking herself right back up. I love the coolness of this song. It’s smooths but picks up for the climatic chorus that really reminds me of Loli’s emotional state in this story. She’s looking for herself. She’s looking for herself in other women.

Tilapia Fish: Fast Car, Tracy Chapman

Anyplace is better, starting from zero got nothing to lose, maybe we’ll make something, but me myself I got nothing to proveI had a really difficult time picking a song for Tilapia Fish. I went with Tracy Chapman Fast Car. Loli’s coming home again. She’s coming home to be with her mother and to be with herself. I think this song can be applied over and over again, throughout the entire collection. Loli wants a fast car. But so does Jolie. So does Olivia.

 

Téa Mutonji visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Catherine Hernandez, Anubha Mehta, Charlene Challenger, and guest speaker Rosamund Small who gives us “Notes on Beautiful Collaboration in Playwriting” or “I Wrote This, Please Make It Alive and Ephemeral (But Also Do It Perfectly and Exactly How I Imagined It Every Single Time). Playwrights are simultaneously the most and least important element of the theatre. They may be the loudest voice in the rehearsal hall, or dead for five hundred years before auditions even begin. 

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BWS 11.09.19: Anubha Mehta

1. Anubha Mehta

Anubha Mehta is a Canadian writer, educator, and artist who was born in India. With a doctorate in Political Science and over two decades of Canadian public service experience, Anubha has been awarded for innovative program planning and working with diverse Canadian communities. Anubha has always balanced academics and public service with art and has been a classical dancer, theatre-actor, painter and poet. Her publication, The Politics of Nation Building and Art Patronage (2012), was a culmination of years of her research in the late 1990s.

Anubha’s debut novel Peacock in the Snow, was launched by Inanna Publications on September 28, 2018 in Toronto. It was selected for sponsorship by City of Toronto Arts Council- IFOA’s Toronto Lit Up. On October 20, 2018, the Toronto International Festival of Authors, showcased and spotlighted Anubha in a ‘Launch of Launches’ in a packed event to a community of readers, patrons, writers and authors. Peacock in the Snow was declared as one of the most anticipated books to read for Fall 2018 by the 49th Shelf. Visit her website for more information.

 

Ahead of her appearance on September 11, Anubha tells us about her debut novel, Peacock in the Snow.

This is a tale of a seamless, adventurous journey of a young woman across continents, cultures, and generations, to find a love that is so improbable and to uncover a secret that sets her free. It is about the tireless capacity of the human spirit to hope, strive and succeed despite impossible obstacles.

This is a story of shy and naïve Maya and how her perfect life with her new husband Veer is thrown into complete disarray when she accidentally stumbles on an ancient family secret. What begins as unwelcome behaviour by Veer’s family soon turns into something sinister. Trapped within the dark walls of her married mansion, the secret begins to haunt Maya and draw a wedge with Veer. To escape the malicious spirits lingering in the house, Maya and Veer migrate to a distant land and start rebuilding their life amongst adventure and hardship. Not knowing that the ghosts of their past have followed them, in a race against time, Maya is put to a final test. Armed with conviction and courage, she sets out to face the dark forces that lie await.

Will Maya ever be free of a dark past? Will she be able to survive so far away from home? Will her marriage stand the test of time, displacement, and hardship in a new country?

Peacock in the Snow is a story of belief, vengeance, and forgiveness. It is a story of optimism rooted in the imperfections of life. Maya’s hope makes her resilient and her courage leads to her redemption. The only way to overcome past wrongs is to face them, to conquer our fears and confront our inner demons.

In this book I talk about those sides of issues and isms, that fall within the shadows and silences of the noise- those aspects that are often overlooked. In Patriarchy’s forceful dominance often women get indoctrinated as its gatekeepers and vulnerable men surrender their personal lives, dreams or love in a show of allegiance to this system.

Across the globe, these issues and isms don’t change, nor are they contained within geographic boundaries. They mutate with different cultures and colours and are manifest in a diversity of context, circumstance, and behaviours according to the tolerance and norms of the place. Set in both East and West, Peacock in the snow, uses a lot of symbolism, allegories and the concept of the paranormal where the possibilities of myth and magic that exist on the fringes of reality come to life and run as arteries throughout the storyline.

 

Anubha Mehta visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Catherine Hernandez, Téa Mutonji, Charlene Challenger, and guest speaker Rosamund Small who gives us “Notes on Beautiful Collaboration in Playwriting” or “I Wrote This, Please Make It Alive and Ephemeral (But Also Do It Perfectly and Exactly How I Imagined It Every Single Time). Playwrights are simultaneously the most and least important element of the theatre. They may be the loudest voice in the rehearsal hall, or dead for five hundred years before auditions even begin. 

 

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BWS 11.09.19: Catherine Hernandez

Catherine_Hernandez

Photo: Marko Kovacevic

Catherine Hernandez is the Artistic Director of b current performing arts and the award-winning author of Scarborough (Arsenal Pulp Press). Scarborough won the 2015 Jim Wong-Chu Award, was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award, the Evergreen Forest of Reading Award, Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, the Trillium Book Award, and longlisted for Canada Reads 2018. It made the “Best of 2017” lists for the Globe and Mail, National Post, Quill and Quire, and CBC Books. Scarborough will be adapted into a film by Compy Films, Reel Asian Film Festival and Telefilm, with Catherine authoring the screenplay. She is currently working on her second and third books, Crosshairs and PSW, both forthcoming from HarperCollins Canada.

 

Before appearing at our next event in September, Catherine shares the first chapter of her second book. “In Crosshairs, QTBIPOC folks learn to take arms against white supremacy and prepare for an uprising against a fascist regime.”

CHAPTER 1

Evan. My beautiful Evan. Here in the darkness of this hiding place, I write you these words. Without paper, without pen, I trace these words in my head, along the perimeter of your outline. Watch this sentence travel along the meat of your cheekbone. See my teeth dig into your it playfully. Watch these words ball into your hand along with a fistful of bedsheet, which you pull over us to create a tent. I imagine your voice now, lying across from me, improvising a silly song about the smallness of my ears. Ironically, you sing it half in tune, half out of tune.

“Maybe you’re the one with the small ears,” I suggest, and you scrunch your face in embarrassment. You are talented at many things, but music isn’t one of them. Sometimes the image of you is clear, right down to the curl of your eyelashes. Sometimes, especially when I am hungry, I recall the shape of your smile and nothing more. Watch these phrases ink across an imaginary page, a Whisper Letter, folded twice, placed in an envelope and mailed to wherever you may be. I will never forget your name, Evan. And I pray you will never forget mine.

If by some miracle my whispered words reach you, I want you to know that I am safe at 72 Homewood Avenue where Liv has hidden me in her basement.

No room in Toronto is ever used in the way it was originally intended. That’s what happens in a city always trying to reinvent itself. Like it has an itch to leave. Like it has a commitment problem. This place was meant to be a cold cellar. A place where, before the invention of refrigeration, the woman of the house would have likely stored things like butter or eggs. That’s why even in the heat of the summer, the heat of this hellish summer, I feel like I am swimming in the cold breath of ghosts. I am wearing all the clothes I ran away in. Five layers, which you told me to wear. There is no finding me. At least I hope so.

To ensure that I am hidden, I have set up my bed beside Liv’s furnace. My bed consists of two layers of cardboard boxes cut to fit in the corner of space behind the humming engine, and a pile of Liv’s old winter coats, which I use as blankets and a pillow. The idea is, if I need to leave again and in a hurry, what remains behind won’t resemble a hideout for me: a Queer Femme Jamaican Filipino man. Anne Frank, minus the diary.

It is here where I await news, where I hope for your arrival, where I wait for Liv to feed me or to tell me it’s time to run again. I am unsure of exactly how long I have been here as counting days is its own form of torture. Instead, I understand the passing of time by watching the moon’s cycle from the basement window. Maybe you are doing the same. Lunar crescents have grown fat then thin across the night sky almost six times. And at the swelling of every moon, Liv has replenished my supplies. It is through this same basement window, that I know I have been here long enough to have watched a racoon give birth, pushing those puppies out, one at a time, in the space between the spider web-stained glass and the corrugated metal framing. Long enough to watch them grow too large for the cubby hole. Long enough to watch the mama bite the collars of each of her whimpering pups and bring them to the surface of the world, high above me.

In the dead of winter, under the fingernail-width-light of a waxing moon, I jogged in place to keep my limbs from feeling wooden and numb. In the spring, when the floodings began, I would stand in ankle-deep filthy water. Under a new moon, with flashes of lightning as my only guide in the darkness, I filled buckets with floodwater and passed them to Liv through the hatch to pour down the kitchen drain. Since the summer has returned, and the moon is pregnant-round, I am thankful the musty smell of mould has dissipated a bit.

I can see the sky peeking through the opening of the basement window like a half-circle picture-perfect blue. I’m not sure what is better: to look outside the window and long for sunlight or to lie on my dark makeshift bed, close my eyes and dream of bicycling with you through the city, fast and free.

Long ago, when I first arrived, I kept to my cardboard bed and wept, seeing the basement as my prison, my tomb while the Renovation unfolded at ground level. Then, as time passed, as the moon scratched a wound across the sky, I began to inch my way about the concrete to witness the untold history of the home with my curious hands and squinting eyes. At the opposite end of the basement where a broken stove sits, just beyond the reach of its power cord’s coil, is a washroom rough-in. Three unfinished pipes stand neck-deep in the solid concrete. I picture a couple in the early 2000s renovating the basement as a separate apartment, then halting their construction as the stock market crashes. In the adjacent corner stands a dusty wooden bar and dysfunctional sink. I imagine a husband in the 1970s, wearing his paisley shirt, sneaking through its shelves in search of his favourite brand of whiskey. A mysterious series of headboards from several different time periods from several different occupants lean against the cold walls.

Every corner of this basement tells a tale and so too does every inch of my body. The landscape of every curve is a map of my traumatic experiences. Between my kneecaps are bodies of water, deep with your touch, remembered. The distance between my belly button and my throat is measured in increments of kilometres run in my escape and the sequence of events that led me here, to this nightmare lived. The canyon of my palm is where I feel everything and everyone I have lost in the last several months. And constantly echoing through these vast mountain ranges, is the sound of first screams and final goodbyes. The cartography of memory. The navigation through valleys of scars.

Tonight, the light comes. I hear the kitchen table slide roughly across the floor and then the hatch is lifted.

 

Catherine Hernandez visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Anubha Mehta, Téa Mutonji, Charlene Challenger, and guest speaker Rosamund Small who gives us “Notes on Beautiful Collaboration in Playwriting” or “I Wrote This, Please Make It Alive and Ephemeral (But Also Do It Perfectly and Exactly How I Imagined It Every Single Time). Playwrights are simultaneously the most and least important element of the theatre. They may be the loudest voice in the rehearsal hall, or dead for five hundred years before auditions even begin. 

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Brockton Writers Series 11.09.19

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Catherine Hernandez
Anubha Mehta
Téa Mutonji
Charlene Challenger

with special guest speaker

Rosamund Small

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

“Notes on Beautiful Collaboration in Playwriting”

Rosamund headshot by Liam Coo

Rosamund Small is the playwright of Sisters (Soulpepper), TomorrowLove™ (Outside the March), and Vitals (Outside the March/Theatre Passe Muraille, Dora for Outstanding New Play/Outstanding Production). She has written in many forms, and loves to experiment with dramatic fiction, verbatim, immersive/site-specific, solo, and anything in between. She collaborates on dance/theatre work with choreographer Robert Binet (their work Orpheus Alive premieres November 2019 at the National Ballet of Canada). Rosamund is a Jr Story Editor of Workin’ Moms on CBC/Netflix.

READERS

Catherine_HernandezCatherine Hernandez is the Artistic Director of b current performing arts and the award-winning author of Scarborough (Arsenal Pulp Press). Scarborough won the 2015 Jim Wong-Chu Award, was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award, the Evergreen Forest of Reading Award, Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, the Trillium Book Award, and longlisted for Canada Reads 2018. It made the “Best of 2017” lists for the Globe and Mail, National Post, Quill and Quire, and CBC Books. Scarborough will be adapted into a film by Compy Films, Reel Asian Film Festival and Telefilm, with Catherine authoring the screenplay. She is currently working on her second and third books, Crosshairs and PSW, both forthcoming from HarperCollins Canada.

 

 

1. Anubha Mehta

Anubha Mehta is a Canadian writer, educator, and artist who was born in India. With a doctorate in Political Science and over two decades of Canadian public service experience, Anubha has been awarded for innovative program planning and working with diverse Canadian communities. Anubha has always balanced academics and public service
with art and has been a classical dancer, theatre-actor, painter and poet. Anubha’s publication, The Politics of Nation Building and Art Patronage (2012), was a culmination of years of her research in the late 1990s.

Anubha’s debut novel Peacock in the Snow, was launched by Inanna Publications on September 28, 2018 in Toronto. It was selected for sponsorship by City of Toronto Arts Council- IFOA’s Toronto Lit Up. On October 20, 2018, the Toronto International Festival of Authors, showcased and spotlighted Anubha in a Launch of Launches’ in a packed event to a community of readers, patrons, writers and authors. Peacock in the Snow was declared as one of the most anticipated books to read for Fall 2018 by the 49th Shelf. Visit her website for more information.

 

TeaBorn in Congo-Kinsasha, Téa Mutonji is an author, screenwriter, essayist and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Walrus, Room Magazine, Joyland, and The Puritan. Her debut collection, Shut Up You’re Pretty (Spring, 2019) is the first title published under Vivek Shraya’s imprint, VS. Books. She writes, and gets lost in Toronto.

 

Charlene Challenger - photo by Russell Challenger

Charlene Challenger is a writer and graduate of Ryerson Theatre School. Her first novel, the young adult fantasy The Voices in Between, was nominated for the 2015 Aurora Award for Best Young Adult Novel and long-listed for the 2015 Sunburst Award Young Adult Novel category. Its sequel, The Myth in Distance, was published in 2016. Her work is also featured in Stone Skin Press’s Gods, Memes and Monsters. She lives in Pickering with her family and her adorable house-wolves.

 

 

 

 

 

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