BWS 10.11.21: Mary Lou Dickinson

Mary Lou Dickinson, a Toronto writer, grew up in northern Quebec. Her first book, One Day It Happens, was published at 70. Four more books since include short stories, two novels, and a mystery. She has also completed a memoir and a self-help book on retirement issues. Click here for more information.

It is at least my third appearance at Brockton. Why am I here? An old white woman. Perhaps because I have valued and supported the diversity of this series from its inception. Perhaps because of my work in the field of violence against women. It was there that I first encountered anti- oppression and anti-racism training in the 1990s. Something that was powerful and questioned the assumptions that pervaded my life from childhood that I had resisted and fought without really understanding why. It was difficult, but a profound relief to find I could understand and continue to fight, knowing that what I had observed so long ago with the wisdom of children was a profoundly unfair society run primarily by white, privileged men. 

Or maybe because I am old?

My life has spanned beginnings in a frontier mining town where people of many backgrounds arrived to mine for gold or support that infrastructure to my present reality in urban Toronto. There were no old people in the mining camp area since it was brand new. I was always fascinated by old people since other than my grandparents in then faraway Toronto, I rarely saw anyone who had reached that stage. In an early home in Toronto, a main floor apartment of a house, the owners who lived above us were in their eighties (the age I am now). I reflect on this these days because I am encountering a prevalent ‘ism’ of which I had no previous in depth understanding. My descriptions of older people in stories were from the outside. Whereas now I am on the inside and wonder how to convey what it is like to be old as well as the ‘isms’ around that. 

The strands that have joined the various segments of my life, as well as family, have found convergence in writing, Although that writing did not come to full public fruition until my first book, a collection of short stories, “One Day It Happens,” was published the year I turned seventy. It was not hailed as the first published work of someone of that age. One reads about writers publishing their first novel at forty, fifty or sixty with great praise and some expression of surprise. Even when my first novel, “Ile d’Or,” was published three years later and favourably reviewed, this did not happen. Three books beyond that, I wonder, is my obscurity a result of being female and now, old?  When I decided to self- publish my most recent book, my fifth by then, my publisher had already accepted another manuscript of mine and I felt my timeline shortening. So, this fifth book, another collection of short stories called “Dance Season” was done through Amazon. And you can purchase copies or ebooks on Amazon

The characters in “Dance Season” are in their sixties, old to many readers. I like to think of them as at a mature age, but some of their behaviour in the stories suggests they nonetheless remain juvenile in many ways. But the characters I contemplate now when I want to try to capture this age that reflects my reality are much older than that. 

One very recent story is called “Watch Out For The Old Lady.” When you hear a bunch of teenage boys circling you and calling out this phrase, it is overwhelming. If I coloured my bangs again either the fuchsia or teal colour I favoured before the pandemic, would it merely cause humour now? Or would I suddenly appear to have individual characteristics and humanity? Or would I still be the subject of their humour and disdain? I know when I used those colours before, leaving the rest white, it elicited conversation everywhere I went, as if ageist observations had no relevance in the light of this youthful gesture.

Such questions are often what I ponder these days. How did the time pass so quickly? How did I reach such an advanced age? It is often said that one is as old as one feels. And I have maintained the reputation of being young by continuing to face life with a youthful spirit. But I know the truth of aging and physical decline that I never understood even as I cared long ago for aging parents. I won’t go into the symptoms or the conditions I have started to confront that began in the last couple of years.  Details vary from one individual to another. Just know that if you have the good fortune to live a long life even with its surprises, you will be very lucky. And that the best way to deal with that now might be to treat your older friends and relatives with kindness and respect. Enjoy them. Help them to go on achieving their dreams! Help them to deal with their new realities and challenges! 

I go to a dance class where I sit and watch most of the time because I can no longer maintain my balance and the turns and spins make me dizzy. Everyone is masked and double vaccinated. The teacher dances a few steps with me in each class I attend. And I am happy not to have to give up entirely something that has been a passion for many years. I am happy that the younger people there (not altogether young, more middle aged) are glad to see me. We talk about dance, politics, climate change, diversity, etc. This is my reality. It is different than it was even before the pandemic in ways I had not foreseen, but not because of the pandemic. Because so many changes happened to me during it. But it is enlightening to find out what another ‘ism’ feels like and try to take steps to define it from the inside rather than only from observing and describing it and wondering what comes next! 

Please don’t treat me like someone who is not here. Sometimes people ask me what I used to do. I tell them what I do now is what I will tell them about. So I do! I also recall when my mother was in hospital years ago and the doctors talked over her to me. It was as if she weren’t even in the room.  I had to let them know that they needed to talk to her directly. People have to continue to deal with me now, too! Yes, I am old, but I am still here. I am still in the room. And I am still writing and publishing and seeking a fair and just society.

Mary Lou Dickinson visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Kelly RobsonLisa Richterand Jael Richardson. Our guest speaker Deborah Dundas will take us through, “Inside the Pages: A Book Editor Demystifies the News and Reviews Process.”

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

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BWS 10.11.21: Kelly Robson

Kelly Robson is a Canadian short fiction writer.  She was awarded the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and both the 2019 and 2016 Aurora Awards for best Short Story. She has also been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, Locus, Astounding, Aurora, and Sunburst awards.

Books Are Not Toys

Recently, I sent a bunch of books to the daughter of a friend-of-a-friend. Though I’d never met the kid, I’d heard stories about her passionate, precocious attachment to books. To say I found that relatable would be an understatement.

I’ve loved books my whole life. When I was a kid, most books came to me by chance, and getting enough of them was always an issue because reading was everything to me, in a way nobody seemed to understand.

When I air-dropped the reading survival pack on the book-crazy kid, her dad said, “She’s going to get spoiled.” My brain exploded. I finally understood, nearly fifty years later, why my parents were so reluctant to keep me in books.

What my parents don’t understand is that if you have eight books, and you read two of them a day, after a couple of months you basically have no books.

It turns out that my parents thought books were the same as toys: If you have some, you don’t need more. But books are emphatically not toys. Books are air and water, essential for life. Access to books is a survival issue to a book-based lifeform. I starved for them, and I’m still bitter about it.

We lived in a small town with no bookstores. The town library was in the high school, and it was full of scary older kids. Mom took me there once or twice when I was seven, but she wouldn’t let me take out chapter books because she thought they were too old for me. When my parents divorced, my mother moved to Edmonton and worked at a mall. I spent a lot of time wandering around there alone, and was thrilled to discover the library in the mall basement, but that’s a saga about the entire Black Stallion series which ended with me never going in there again, despite a kind librarian who waived a year of late fees.

So, I became not just a reader, but a re-reader, consuming books forty or a hundred times over — even the ones I didn’t particularly like. When I was a little older, and had some money of my own to spend, I discovered the Science Fiction and Fantasy section of the mall bookstore and my life got much, much better.

Today, I have all the books I could ever want. I never deny myself a book I want, but even so, I’m still a re-reader.

And I think that perhaps that skill has led me to where I am now. If I’d had all the books I wanted, I would have still loved and appreciated them, but forming the re-reading habit allowed me to steep my brain in the writing rhythms of my favorite writers. Re-reading gives me gives me skills and insights I probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

So, am I thankful for my bookless childhood? Definitely not! So let’s spread the word, books are not toys. Some kids need books, and lots of them.

Kelly Robson visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Mary Lou DickinsonLisa Richterand Jael Richardson. Our guest speaker Deborah Dundas will take us through, “Inside the Pages: A Book Editor Demystifies the News and Reviews Process.”

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

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Brockton Writers Series 10.11.21

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Kelly Robson

Mary Lou Dickinson

Lisa Richter

Jael Richardson

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

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

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

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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GUEST SPEAKER

Inside the Pages: A Book Editor Demystifies the News and Reviews Process

Deborah Dundas is the Books Editor at the Toronto Star with a broad background in the media, including stints in business, lifestyle, and national and city politics, in television and in newspapers, in Canada and while working and living in Northern Ireland. She’s reported and edited/produced on air and for print – and has interviewed some of the world’s most recognizable authors including Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Colson Whitehead, Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith and John Irving. She regularly appears on stage, television and radio and is deeply involved with the literary community, often acting as a juror or host. She studied English and Political Science at Toronto’s York University and is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of King’s College.

READERS

Kelly Robson is a Canadian short fiction writer.  She was awarded the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and both the 2019 and 2016 Aurora Awards for best Short Story. She has also been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, Locus, Astounding, Aurora, and Sunburst awards.

Mary Lou Dickinson, a Toronto writer, grew up in northern Quebec. Her first book, One Day It Happens, was published at 70. Four more books since include short stories, two novels, and a mystery. She has also completed a memoir and a self-help book on retirement issues. Click here for more information.

Lisa Richter (she/her) is a poet, writer, editor, and ESL teacher. She is the author of two books of poetry, Closer to Where We Began (Tightrope Books, 2017) and Nautilus and Bone (Frontenac House, October 2020), winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry, the Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Poetry, the Alberta Book Publishing Association’s Robert Kroestsch Award for Poetry, and longlisted for the Raymond Souster Award. She facilitates workshops with the Writers Collective of Canada, a charitable organization that promotes exploratory writing in community. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FreeFall Magazine, The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, Grain, EXILE, among other placesShe lives in Tkaronto/Toronto. You can find her online at www.lisarichter.org.

Jael Richardson is the author of The Stone Thrower, a book columnist on CBC’s q and the founder and Executive Director for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) in Brampton, Ontario. Her debut novel, Gutter Child was shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel Award. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and lives in Brampton, Ontario.

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BWS 08.09.21 report: “Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Substance” with Tamara Faith Berger

Tamara Faith Berger writes fiction, non-fiction and screenplays. She is the author of Lie With Me (2001) and The Way of the Whore (2004) which were republished together by Coach House Books as Little Cat in 2013, Maidenhead (2012) which won The Believer Book Award, and Kuntalini (2016). Her fifth book, Queen Solomon, was published by Coach House Books in October 2018 and it was nominated for a Trillium Book Award. Her work has been published in Apology MagazineCanadian Art, Taddle Creek and Canadian Notes and Queries. She has a BFA in Studio Art from Concordia University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She lives and works in Toronto where she co-runs the literary speaking series Smutburger. 

Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Meaning

The main points I tend to speak about around writing sex are: 1) employing the first-person point-of-view, the “I,” which I find is really instructive in order to get close to what a character is experiencing and 2) the possibility of threading in thinking to our sex scenes, which can be vital, and sort of liberating for people who want to include sex in their work, whether its poetry, fiction or non-fiction.

I think we have to shift focus away from psychology when we are thinking about writing sex scenes as a part of our work. The question is not really why any of us want to write about or include sex, it is more so (and there is a lot of meaning in) how we chose to do it. How do we create something bubbling underneath or threaded through our sex scenes? How can we write in an effective way about sex?

The answer is likely going to be different with every person, but employing the I to narrate a sex scene immediately gets you, your narrator and your reader close, sometimes uncomfortably close. I call this the sexually active point of view. Very generally, the sexually active POV is about telling us something that happened, perhaps even as it is happening in a tone that works for your piece. Stripped down, the I says: I did this (or I’m doing this.) I saw this. I smelled this. I sucked that. I felt it. I was there. That was me.

This “I”functions as a harbinger that the private will be made public. I have a secret, but it’s not a secret anymore.

*

I think that sex scenes, in general, and no matter the genre, sort of volley between a kind of high art and low art vibe. You can call this: erotica versus porn or you can think of it as a meshing of a literary or narrative urge with a more body-based, anal-oral-genital urge. Mixing the high and low, using the sexually active POV seems to work. It accesses the age-old technique of the confessional, which is a well-worn way in literature to access sympathy, arousal, feeling. In a more contemporary way of thinking about things, the “I” gets us into a kind of radical subjectivity. And with sexual subject matter, this can be political. Ultimately, the personal is political in this “I”: radical subjectivity about erotic experience. Especially erotic experience we may not have heard from so often before.

*

The second craft piece that I want to talk about is thinking. That old chestnut: the mind/body split. How can we thread thinking into our sex scenes, which might feel very much either locked in the body or the mind? I think it’s important, even if you’re writing Romance or Erotica, where the story is about emotional justice, i.e., a happy ending, to admit or include that negative, boring, traumatic, uncomfortable or fearful sexual experiences and thoughts are a fact of life. Sometimes, bad sex experiences and/or banal thoughts function as the shadow side of joy, pleasure, ecstasy, connection.

One way I’ve found to think about writing sex is to think about how or where your character finds themselves in the unstable lines between fantasy and reality in a scene. For example, in my past work, I have been really interested in my character’s experiences between horror and arousal: between the worst thing happening and the best thing happening, between being in pain and being in pleasure. Put another way, between what a character wants to happen to her and what is actually happening. I have found that writing on the continuum between fantasy and reality, or to put it very simply, between good sex and bad sex, has overall, really deepened my experience of representing sex. Writing sex where there is always something else happening for the narrator than just what is going on in front of them, i.e., there is something in the body and something in the mind. Sometimes these ‘somethings’ merge in text, which is ideal.

So, this is my how, how I approach sex writing. I approach it as an unstable scene. Unfixed. Things move and feelings change. Ultimately, I think that writing (and reading sex) is about a willingness to enter the murkiness of our desires, to explore the shadows of desire, to get a feel for the chaos inside us. To stay there, too. To take a look around. To enter the disjunction, the contradiction.

I think literature is really a great place to experience this.  

*

I think that writers should also feel really free to mess around with language when working with a sex scene. What happens to language in sex? I feel like this is a kind of an underground, ‘messing with the pipes’ kind of practice. It’s also, quite often, about having a female eye in sacred or closed male spaces. In my case, writing sex has been an urge to participate in traditionally male spaces like pornography and religion. Sometimes, the only way to enter forbidden spaces is to be stealthy, fiddle around with the pipes, and leave a mess.

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BWS 08.09.21: In case you missed it!

Click here to see the recorded live stream of our September 8th event featuring Jónína Kirton, Antonio Michael Downing, Fonda Lee, C. L. Polk, and guest speaker Tamara Faith Berger who explored, “Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Substance”.

Stay tuned for our next event on Wednesday, November 10th at 6:30pm!

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BWS 08.09.21: Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of the Green Bone Saga, beginning with Jade City and continuing in Jade War and the forthcoming Jade Legacy, as well as the acclaimed science fiction novels ZeroboxerExo and Cross Fire. Fonda is a three-time Aurora Award winner and a multiple finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards. Find her online at www.fondalee.com.

Ahead of her appearance on September 8, Fonda Lee shares her Guest of Honour Speech that she delivered at When Words Collide. Read more to find out why she loves being a novelist!

Ten Reasons I Love Being A Novelist

I initially thought that for this speech, I would talk about the challenges of being a creative professional during the pandemic. The importance of being resilient, adaptable, and so on. But then, it occurred to me that it’s so rare to be unabashedly happy these days. It’s almost as if every time we talk about things going well, we must add the caveat, “given the circumstances.”

I’m launching Jade Legacy, the final book in the Green Bone Saga on November 30, and what I truly want is to be unreservedly happy about it. Writing this trilogy has been a passion project that’s consumed more than six years of my life, and it’s been wonderful to see fans getting excited for the conclusion to the series. So decided instead that I want to take this opportunity to talk about why I love my job. Writing is not my first career. Ten years ago, I decided to transition out of my corporate job in order to pursue a dream of writing science fiction and fantasy novels. There have been plenty of challenges along the way, but I have no regrets.

Here’s why.

1. I Get to Be A Control Freak.

So much in the world feels entirely out of control right now. But in my job, I get to be in complete control. I create entire worlds, populate them with people, and determine what happens. I’m the god of my story. My vision is paramount and my authority is absolute.

Other types of media require a collaborative creative effort. I’ve written for comics. I’ve seen the Hollywood scriptwriting process up close. It can be a lot of fun to work with a team in someone else’s fictional world. But for me, nothing beats being a novelist when it comes to the gratification of knowing that what you’re putting on the page is as purely yourself as can be.

2. I Get to Build Worlds.

I’m a worldbuilding junkie! It’s why I love being a science fiction and fantasy writer.

What I enjoy most about worldbuilding isn’t the setting, but the society and culture. Characters and the decisions they make are a product of the societies they inhabit. Creating the complicated interplay between character, world, and plot is one hundred percent my jam.

Many people have asked me if the Green Bone Saga is based on a place in the real world—whether that be Japan, China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. The answer is that it’s based on all and none of those places. I built the fictional island of Kekon and its capital city of Janloon from the ground up, striving to create a place that was both recognizable and entirely different. For me, that’s where the fun lies. My goal with worldbuilding is always to create a sense of versimilitude. I want the reader to feel like this place exists, that they could get on a plane to visit it. It’s why I love coming up with the specific details: the names for streets, restaurants, even luxury cars.

3. I’ll Always Have the Perfect Book On Hand.

I wanted to read a story that blended inspirations of epic fantasy, kung fu flicks, and gangster movies. I wanted a family saga featuring Asians who weren’t funny and wholesome model minorities, but sexy, dangerous alpha Asians. I couldn’t find that book. So I wrote it.

Most people who have to search for a book. I can simply spend years writing it. Ha!

4. I Already Work From Home.

Even before the pandemic and its lockdowns, I was already accustomed to working on the sofa in pajama pants. Way ahead of you all!

(Unfortunately, I didn’t account for having the whole family in my office…)

5. Anything I Learn Might Be Story Material.

My day job as a corporate strategist at Nike wound up inspiring me to write Zeroboxer, my debut science fiction novel about an athlete competing in zero gravity. My decades training in martial arts have gone into the fight scenes of the Green Bone Saga. Hawk walks I took in Ireland while on vacation went into the novella I just turned in to my publisher.

My advice to teen writers has always been to go out and live life as much as as possible. Everything you experience is fodder for storytelling.  

6. I Can Justify All My Entertainment Choices as Research.

I watched so much UFC while writing Zeroboxer. All these yakuza movies were definitely Green Bone Saga research. Reading books—in fact, consuming stories in any form—is a necessary part of my job, because I need to stay well informed about the industry. I’ve watched a lot of anime during this pandemic and I see it as 100% tax deductible professional development.

7. No One Can Fire Me.

Bad things could happen. My books could sell poorly, my publisher could drop me, I could fail to sell my next novel. All of those things have happened to authors I know. But at the end of the day, the only person who can stop me from writing is myself.

This job is filled with disappointments, but very few of them are fatal if you refuse to let them be. You can come back after a dry spell. You can self publish. You can write in a new genre or in a new category with a new name. If you’re a writer, you’re the only one who can fire you.

8. I Have Really Cool Colleagues.

When I left my office job to be a writer, I worried I might be lonely. I haven’t missed a single day in the office.

That’s because I’ve found the community of writers to be a lot more fun and interesting than any other workplace. Writers come from all walks of life—ages, places, backgrounds—but we all share a passion for storytelling. I have good friends, whom I’ve known for years, and I still don’t know what they do in their day job or even their real name.

Word of advice to up and coming authors: Find your community. With fellow writers to lean on, cheer you, and lift each other up, this isn’t a lonely profession at all.

9. I Put A Morally Good Product Into the Universe.

My former corporate jobs were enjoyable enough at the time and paid well, but I essentially helped billion-dollar companies sell more stuff. You’ve got to wonder sometimes: How many sneakers do people really need?

I have zero guilt about putting more books into the world.  Especially with so much of the market now in ebooks and audio, books are non-polluting, low carbon footprint products that bring only happiness and greater knowledge. How could we have gotten through this pandemic without the entertainment and solace of stories?

Books aren’t a one-size-fits-all widget. Your book doesn’t need to sell a ton of copies to be meaningful. It may be the perfect book for a few readers who don’t even know they need it yet.

10. My Book Could Be Someone’s Favorite Book.

Books are small potatoes compared to blockbuster movies and other more popular forms of media. Science fiction and fantasy is only one genre within the marketplace of books. And my books are just a tiny piece of that pie. And yet, I know my work is nevertheless meaningful because every once in a while, a reader will contact me to say, “You wrote my favorite book.”

Their favorite book. There are a lot of books in the world, but I wrote that person’s favorite.

In this industry, there are many external markers of success: big book deals, sales, awards, and so on. It’s easy to become fixated on them, and to forget that there’s always another human being on the other end of the relationship between writer and reader. I tell aspiring writers: Never try to write a book that will please everyone. That is impossible. Write the book that’s perfect for you. Then go out and find the readers for whom your book might be their favorite.

One of the hardest things about the pandemic for me has been missing events, book signings, and cons. Those are my opportunities to see my readers, to be reminded of the fact that when a book I wrote reaches someone, a special bond is formed between strangers. I may never meet or speak to that person. They might never contact me. But I gave something precious to someone else, and that is really, really cool.

It’s why I love being a novelist.

Fonda Lee visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Jónína Kirton, Antonio Michael Downingand C. L. Polk . Our guest speaker Tamara Faith Berger will talk us through, “Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Substance”.

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

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BWS 08.09.21: Antonio Michael Downing

Antonio Michael Downing grew up in southern Trinidad, Northern Ontario, Brooklyn, and Kitchener. He is a musician, writer, and activist based in Toronto. His 2010 debut novel, Molasses (Blaurock Press), was published to critical acclaim. In 2017 he was named by the RBC Taylor Prize as one of Canada’s top Emerging Authors for nonfiction. He performs and composes music as John Orpheus.

“I’ve been travelling for so very long. Trying to find some place that feels like home. And there are many things that you can take from me. But what you can’t take away, is the love that is found, In our sweet destiny.”


– John Orpheus on Fela Awoke (I Will Miss You)

FELA AWOKE (I WILL MISS YOU) is the first single from my album SAGA KING which is the companion to my memoir SAGA BOY (Penguin Random House). I consider them two parts of one work of art: the book is the journey of the boy, the album is the celebration of the arrival of the man. It celebrates sovereignty over oneself. 

Fela Awoke (I Will Miss You) tells the story of the death of Nigerian music legend, Fela Kuti, Jamaican icon Bob Marley and my own Grandmother, who features prominently in the first 100 pages of the memoir. It ends by repeating the Yoruba phrase Madele (which means ‘I will find my way home’), as the theme of  a quest for a spiritual home while drawing from hope, history and Black resilience runs through both the book and the album.

Click here to hear Fela Awoke

This song means everything to me. It’s a deeply personal story and it’s reaching for something more profound than I’ve ever tried to say in a song. My people are Yoruba from West Africa and, when I grew up in Trinidad, we still spoke some words after 150 plus years. So, as a grown musician, I always felt connected to Fela Kuti. In a year where life has been so fragile, this is my response. It is unique to me but feels somehow universal. 

Antonio Michael Downing visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Jónína KirtonFonda Leeand C. L. Polk . Our guest speaker Tamara Faith Berger will talk us through, “Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Substance”.

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

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BWS 08.09.21: Jónína Kirton

Jónína Kirton, a Red River Métis/Icelandic poet was sixty-one when she received the 2016 Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts category. Her second collection of poetry, An Honest Woman, was a finalist in the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. 

“We don’t always get to choose what we write about…this piece definitely choose me and I am so glad it did,” says Jónína about her latest work, A Story Within Many Stories.

A Story Within Many Stories

Every word I select is at the expense of others. – Betsy Warland, Bloodroot: Tracing the Untelling of Motherloss

Much of my writing has been about loss and intergenerational trauma from the perspective of a mixed race, settler/Indigenous woman. As I tried to tell my story, the question of ‘whose story is this to tell’, presented itself over and over and yet I was obsessed with understanding/uncovering all that my family preferred to hide. Born in 1955 to an Icelandic/Irish mother and a Métis father I was a curious child and often considered ‘too sensitive’.  I had no one to tell me that my curiosity was a good thing or that my sensitivity was empathy and that this was a gift. There was no one to help me learn how to live with gifts that can make it hard to be in this colonized, patriarchal world so when my niece, Gabby was born in 2004, I knew I needed to be there for her. Sadly, economics and distance made this impossible so I wrote books thinking of her, hoping that one day she would read them.  I wanted to tell her the truth of what life is like for mixed blood women and part of this truth telling included the abuse I had suffered at the hands of my own father (her grandfather whom she loved deeply). It made me want to be even more careful, and fair, to my father. For a time, I felt like a declawed cat, but I still had my mouth, my words became sharp teeth, pointed so that they could sink deeper into the truth. So rather than scratching or clawing, creating disorganized chaos, they were like arrows landing deeply inside. Unquestionable. They became unquestionable offerings detailing abuse without an opinion about my abusers, whoever they were.  Like so many limitations, it brought creativity that I might not have been able to come to otherwise.

I am happy to say that now that my niece is seventeen, we connect regularly via social media. We have been getting to know one another. She speaks to me about her thoughts on things like social justice and has become interested in poetry. In one of our last communications, she sent me a Virginia Woolf quote that inspired this poem:

rooted

for my niece Gabby

I am rooted, but I flow.
– Virginia Woolf, Waves

I am a story within the stories of many

I am a paradox

one thing and then another

parts of a whole

that does not know itself

turning towards the invisible

I can see the limits of knowledge

the places where formulas dissolve

into knowing that can only come

when quiet and walking in a forest

where the standing ones watch and wait

for us to return to ourselves to the new stories that are waiting to unfold

I pray daily to the Ancestors and ask them to help me walk in a good way so that I can be there for my niece, for all who come behind me. One way I know of ‘being there for others’ is to be honest. I focus on this so much as it was the one thing I most wanted from my mother, my father, my aunts, and uncles. I don’t want to be one of those that bury natural curiosity and talents or gifts under a blanket of misinformation that can take a lifetime to unravel. If honesty/truth is there, we can then properly assess what is needed. That was why they called it Truth and Reconciliation. There can be no reconciliation or healing without truth. There can be no new stories until we face the past, accept the truth and then together find our way forward. ~ All my Relations

Jónína Kirton visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Antonio Michael DowningFonda Leeand C. L. Polk . Our guest speaker Tamara Faith Berger will talk us through, “Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Substance”.

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

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Brockton Writers Series 08.09.21

Wednesday, September 8, 2021 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Jónína Kirton

Antonio Michael Downing

Fonda Lee

C. L. Polk

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

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

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

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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GUEST SPEAKER

“Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Substance”

Tamara Faith Berger writes fiction, non-fiction and screenplays. She is the author of Lie With Me (2001) and The Way of the Whore (2004) which were republished together by Coach House Books as Little Cat in 2013, Maidenhead (2012) which won The Believer Book Award, and Kuntalini (2016). Her fifth book, Queen Solomon, was published by Coach House Books in October 2018 and it was nominated for a Trillium Book Award. Her work has been published in Apology MagazineCanadian Art, Taddle Creek and Canadian Notes and Queries. She has a BFA in Studio Art from Concordia University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She lives and works in Toronto where she co-runs the literary speaking series Smutburger. 

READERS

Jónína Kirton, a Red River Métis/Icelandic poet was sixty-one when she received the 2016 Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts category. Her second collection of poetry, An Honest Woman, was a finalist in the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. 

Antonio Michael Downing grew up in southern Trinidad, Northern Ontario, Brooklyn, and Kitchener. He is a musician, writer, and activist based in Toronto. His 2010 debut novel, Molasses (Blaurock Press), was published to critical acclaim. In 2017 he was named by the RBC Taylor Prize as one of Canada’s top Emerging Authors for nonfiction. He performs and composes music as John Orpheus.

Fonda Lee is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of the Green Bone Saga, beginning with Jade City and continuing in Jade War and the forthcoming Jade Legacy, as well as the acclaimed science fiction novels Zeroboxer, Exo and Cross Fire. Fonda is a three-time Aurora Award winner and a multiple finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards. Find her online at www.fondalee.com.

C. L. Polk (they/them) wrote the Kingston Cycle, including the WFA winning Witchmark. The Midnight Bargain was a Canada Reads, Nebula, Locus, Ignyte, and WFA finalist. Mx. Polk lives in the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, and the Métis Nation (Region 3).

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BWS 14.07.21: In case you missed it!

Click here to see the recorded live stream of our July 14th event featuring Kiran Bhat, Kamila Rina, Prakash Krishnan, Carrianne Leung, and guest speaker Sonia Vaillant who talked us through, “Audio books 101”.

Stay tuned for our next event on Wednesday, September 8th at 6:30pm!

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