BWS 12.05.21: Therese Estacion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BWS 12.05.21: Waubgeshig Rice

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

Widening the Storytelling Circle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BWS 12.05.21: Ryanne Kap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryanne: Nice.

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

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

Sarah: Can I interject?

Ryanne: Yes.

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

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

Sarah: Oh no.

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

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

Ryanne: I get it. Thank you.

Sarah: You’re welcome.

Ryanne: Sarah, what are your questions?

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

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

Sarah: Why is that?

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah: You’re just saying buzzwords.

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

Ryanne: Okay, thank you. Sarah?

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah: I think you’re both saying nothing. 

Ryanne & Victoria: Yeah.

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

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

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BWS 12.05.21: Elizabeth Hirst

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

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

Meeting the Wildlife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

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

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

 “Better?” Denny asked flatly.

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

  “I survived,” she said.

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

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

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Brockton Writers Series 12.05.21

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Elizabeth Hirst

Ryanne Kap

Waubgeshig Rice

Therese Estacion

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

Screenwriting versus Prose

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

READERS

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

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

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

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

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BWS 10.03.21 report: “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion” with Jen Sookfong Lee

Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver’s East Side, and she now lives with her son in North Burnaby. Her books include The Conjoined, nominated for International Dublin Literary Award and a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction PrizeThe Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book AwardThe End of EastGentlemen of the ShadeThe Shadow List, and Finding Home. Jen teaches at The Writers’ Studio Online with Simon Fraser University, acquires and edits fiction for Wolsak & Wynn, and co-hosts the podcast Can’t Lit.

In her guest talk Jen Sookfong Lee guides us through the process of supporting inclusion in publishing by getting to the heart of the matter, “how do we navigate this space in a way that honours the diversity of our stories voices and identities, while uplifting and making space for others who also need that support?”

Introduction

  • Publishing has historically been a challenging industry to navigate for BIPOC writers, as well as writers who are LGBTQ+.
  • Publishing spots have been scarce, and the types of narratives that have been allowed into the marketplace have often been ones that advance certain stereotypes about these communities.
  • In addition, jobs within the publishing industry are often held, still, by people who are born with privilege—usually white, straight, and cis. This is definitely changing and many publishers have actively tried to counteract this with inclusion initiatives, and change has been happening at the entry level. Where it is stalled somewhat is the managerial and executive level.
  • Without editors, agents, and publicists who understand the breadth of authors’ stories, the books themselves can’t be edited or promoted in inclusive and sensitive ways.
  • There are many reasons for this that have to do with access to education, mainstream popular and literary culture, and representation.
  • But the real question for us as writers is: how do we navigate this space in a way that honours the diversity of our stories, voices, and identities?
  • While uplifting and making space for others who also need that support?

THREE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO SUPPORT INCLUSION IN PUBLISHING

Ask the hard questions

  • When it comes time for you to negotiate a contract, consider an offer on your book, or appear at events to promote your work, don’t be afraid to ask questions, as many as you need to be clear that your concerns are being addressed.
  • If you are from a marginalized community, it can be hard to ask probing questions, as the pressure to be agreeable and not difficult or aggressive is heavy.
  • But you have every right to ask about how an editor will approach issues of language or race, or if a festival event you have been invited to will be accessible and inclusive, or if a publisher will help pay for a sensitivity reader.
  • It’s important too that writers with privilege ask similarly hard questions: will the event be inclusive and accessible, who else is being publishing in this issue or this season, can we share promotion resources if someone else who is marginalized needs that support.
  • Always being aware that it can be very hard for someone who is marginalized to advocate for themselves.
  • Everything that has to do with the business of writing is open for negotiation.

If in doubt, seek a second opinion

  • If you can’t come to an agreement about a contract or event, reach out to your network of
  • other writers and mentors to see what they think.
  • One thing I have learned is that writing is not a solitary activity.
  • It takes a community to care for the individual.
  • We’re fortunate to have organizations like TWUC, League of Canadian Poets, Writers’ Trust that actively try to make that community and address equity.
  • Resources that I have found helpful is the How To series published by TWUC, which includes taxes and contracts.
  • Publishing is a hard business that doesn’t offer job security or a lot of money.
  • Without each of holding each other up, none of this is possible, both in terms of business but also in terms of mental health.

Determine what you’re comfortable with

  • We all have different comfort levels for what we will write about, how we will promote our writing, and what topics we will discuss in public.
  • During the publishing process, it’s important to think about what our boundaries are.
  • For example, some of you might be comfortable talking about race in an event meant to promote inclusion in the literary world, and some of you may not.
  • As time goes on, those boundaries may change, so try to check in with yourself to reassess what you need or don’t need, and to make sure you are still staying on track with your limits.
  • This applies to burn-out and how much we work too.
  • One of the things I have noticed with emerging writers is that the industry will anoint a few new writers a year with It-person status.
  • This is particularly true if they also carry the burden of representation.
  • There is a lot pressure to keep up, to make sure you’re tweeting every day, to jump into controversial conversations that relate to your work or identity, to accept every invite.
  • But, you don’t have to.
  • My interest as a mentor or an editor is being able to help build a sustainable long term career. 
  • And that means not burning out, saying no when you have to.

Conclusion

  • When things are quiet and we’re getting a lot of rejections, we start to believe that we will never be able to reach our writing career goals.
  • I don’t just mean publication or the Giller Prize.
  • Stable housing, holidays, retirement funds—all of these are for people with regular jobs.
  • But it’s possible to have goals and to work toward them.
  • We just need to be organized and mindful of and engaged with our business practices, our boundaries, scheduling, and money.
  • We are at a transition point now where inclusion and payments are being openly discussed,
  • Without that, we can never move forward with enough cake for everyone.

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BWS 10.03.21: Laila Malik

Laila Malik is a diasporic desi writer in Adobigok, traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. She has been published in various literary magazines, thrice shortlisted for creative non-fiction prizes, and is a recipient of an OAC grant for her first volume of poetry (forthcoming).

I was thinking about all the complex and disparate iterations of personhood through time, and specifically the experiential idea of “woman”, with all its actual unruliness, against multiple backdrops of prescriptive myth and fairy tale and white-centred gendering. And I was thinking about the ways we make choices with and without clarity and compromise, and how we age against them and forget contexts and remember feelings. I was thinking about happy endings and pat outcomes, and how some things simply remain unresolved, only in beautiful new formations. And I was thinking about music, how always and every time, it threads together our fragments, allows us a kind of wholeness.

The saddest songs are in D Minor

Imagine a woman.

You could imagine a witch with two cats named Prudence and Dogma, who rides a pen instead of a broomstick under a no-moon sky, or a woman who sidesaddles a crochet needle or a chopstick from a Thai take-out place, one that she washes and reuses until it is splintered and frayed and then she uses it to aerate the compacted soil in her jasmine plant.

You could imagine a keyboard that thinks slower than fingers, or a smartphone that speaks with a halting thumb.

Imagine how a woman beholds the biceps of her friend, curled around a newborn kitten, standing in a kitchen revisiting all the other babies, you could listen to the competing rumble and purr of their voices and behold how the bag of ill-fitting shards that are brain and heart tumble, re-shatter, reassemble.

Or imagine a 25 year old brittled by a failing species choking a hapless planet, astounded by the elastic country of his lover’s abdomen, saying simply “I want to have her babies.”

Or one who can no longer find his footprint, for whom might as well becomes reason enough.

Try imagining two mammals who wanted just for a moment only to be humans together, with no ulteriors or anteriors or posteriors, only flesh and spirit breathing grace, gliding two wheels apiece into a celluloid sunset.

Now imagine her again, imagine her jasmine plant is dying and her lover the poet, the one she never allowed to touch her body, is already dead, and she is weary of dampening her daughter’s pillow in the dark, imagine her just picking one of the shards and beseeching her Creator to make her steadfast. This one, God, just let this one be me.

You could imagine a woman alone in her apartment, getting high and listening to old soul on vinyl, avoiding her mother’s phone calls.

You could imagine her mother.

Laila Malik visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Gavin JonesNatasha Ramoutarand Andrew Wilmot. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.

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 10.03.21: Andrew Wilmot

Andrew Wilmot is an award-winning writer and editor, and co-publisher of the magazine Anathema: Spec from the Margins. Their first novel, The Death Scene Artist, an epistolary horror story of body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, and self-destruction, is available from Buckrider Books/Wolsak & Wynn. For more, check out andrewwilmot.ca.

After thinking long and hard about what to write for their blog, Andrew decided to lean into the struggles and get a little uncomfortably honest.

No joke: I’ve been trying to think of what to write for this essay for a few weeks now. I could self-promote*, sure, but I’m not very fond of that at the best of times. I’ve thought about offering an excerpt from something I’ve written but lately have felt so detached from my own creative output that I simply have not been able to decide what, if anything, would be a decent showcase for my work. Also, I write a lot of body horror and that’s just not something you drop on an unsuspecting readership without warning.

I thought, too, of doing some sort of list as a fun way to introduce people to the sorts of works that make me tick—the books that have fuelled, in some capacity, my desire to write and the themes I so frequently explore. But then I realized I’m not terribly interested in offering up capsule reviews of any one thing. (But for anyone interested: read Daytripper [Moon and Ba], Hygiene and the Assassin [Nothomb], The Shining Girls [Beukes], How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe [Yu], The Inheritance Trilogy [Jemisin], and Altered Carbon [some transphobic asshole] for a solid education in all things me.)

I apologize if it sounds as if I’m rather blah about this whole thing. I’m not, I assure you. But also, I kind of am. Confused? Well then, let me introduce you to my good friend** Depression.

I’m not one to hold back re: discussing mental health. I’ve spoken many times over the years about my battles with anorexia and chronic anxiety, but I’ve not touched too much on similar issues I’ve had with depression—at least not publicly. Largely this is because, prior to 2020, it always seemed to take a backseat to the rest of the internal chaos. But the combination of finally addressing longstanding issues I’ve had with respect to my body and identity, and finally gaining something akin to stability in my professional life have helped mitigate some of that ever-present panic. Which is great, truly—I love not waking up every single day with my heart already in my throat.

But then 2020 happened, and my depression decided to kick down the door in a very real way. And a year or so later… it’s still there, crashing on my couch and not helping one iota with the rent. It’s taken me too long to recognize it for what it is, and even longer for me to reckon with how, for some time now, it has taken from me that which makes me feel most human.

Bluntly, I haven’t been writing. At all. For all intents and purposes, 2020 was the first year since probably 2003 that I just didn’t produce much of anything. It’s not even that I didn’t write; it’s that I didn’t want to write. I wanted to want to write—I felt that a lot—but the actual urge to sit and stare at a page, pen in hand? Gone.

So, what have I been doing instead? Watching things. A lot of things. Mostly horror movies. New, old, good, bad, cult—whatever I can get my hands on. Why? Because as despicable and fucked up as horror can be, it’s also my comfort food. It’s catharsis via simulated mutilation, amplified terror, and buckets of blood of all manner of quality—from “that looks way too real” to “I think this was actually just a bunch of ketchup packets.” Horror films by and large give us identifiable, quantifiable threats, often personified or portrayed in ways that are accessible and easy to understand, provided you’ve got the stomach for it. They take our fears and turn them back on us, show us what they really are. And I love them for that. Also, it’s been a good year for entertaining our worst fears. Sadly.

I’ve travelled this months-long descent into all things gory and disgusting as a means of combatting my own fears while also slowly finding my way back to actually caring about stories again—about wanting to get back to telling them and not merely letting them coast over me like so much has these past twelve months. And it’s working. I think. At the very least I feel something stirring again—a desire to plan and plot—I’m just uncertain if it’s actual desire or just this anxious gnawing in my brain informing me that I’m not currently doing enough to stay relevant.

Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s neither and I’m still figuring out how to re-light my fuse. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure. About the only thing I am sure about is my urge to be transparent—with my writing and with who I am. Because a lot of things are on fire right now, everywhere, constantly, and still so many of us feel like we have to be producing at all times or we’re failures.

But none of that is true. We are not what we produce. Our worth is not measured in book deals or story sales. I have no interest in thinking that way, though I will admit to being guilty of such thoughts, in my weaker moments. But I’ve had a year now of “weaker moments,” and I’m sick of this shit. I want out.

Why did I write this rambling screed about my mental health? Because, frankly, I had no idea what else to write. And if I’m not going to be sincere with you then I don’t know why I’m writing anything in the first place. My work is, at all times, a self-reckoning. There’s far more of me in the pages of what I produce than most people realize. And if I expect anyone to ever grapple with what I create in a meaningful way, then I have to be honest with myself, and with you.

And right now? I’m kind of a mess.

And I think I’m ready to see what comes of it.

(*I mean, I am going to self-promote at least a little bit: See here for my book, and here for an awesome little magazine I co-edit that publishes speculative fiction and poetry from queer BIPOC authors.)

(**Not actually a friend—more of a freeloading asshole that won’t take a hint.)

Andrew Wilmot, visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Gavin Jones, Natasha Ramoutarand Laila Malik. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.

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 10.03.21: Natasha Ramoutar

Photo credit: Matthew Narea

Natasha Ramoutar is an Indo-Guyanese writer by way of Scarborough (Ganatsekwyagon) at the east side of Toronto. She is the author of Bittersweet (Mawenzi House, 2020), a volunteer with the Festival of Literary Diversity, and the co-editor of FEEL WAYS, an anthology of Scarborough writing.

For the wonderful folks at the Brockton Writers Series, I, Adrian De Leon, had the chance to interview one of my best friends and co-conspirators, Natasha Ramoutar, author of Bittersweet (Mawenzi House, 2018), and co-editor of FEEL WAYS: A Scarborough Anthology. When you, dear reader, get the chance to hear her read, you might experience what she calls the ‘dreamspace’ of poetry, and listen for yourself the type of ethereal and speculative mood threaded throughout her art.

The brief conversation that follows is but a sliver of the kinds of theoretical and literary brilliance that Natasha weaves into her writing. Much like her poems, she takes you across space and time, through literary traditions, then back to our hometown of Scarborough, Ontario.

While Bittersweet is steeped in history, and particularly histories of migration and empire, to me, your book is a masterclass in a subjunctive poetics—that is, in imagining, speculating, wishing, and dreaming up new possible futures. Many of your poems ask questions that make the fantastical seem possible, e.g. “Is there a way to fry accents into our doubles?” (26). How does the subjunctive mood enable you to invent new types of verses? And how does your current work continue (or not) the work of speculation that Bittersweet does so well?

While particular histories of migration and empire serve as the backbone of Bittersweet, the collection is also an exercise of collaging together a lineage when personal and historical archives may be lost or suppressed. I naturally gravitated towards the subjunctive poetics because it allowed me to go beyond the limits of reality and the constraints of linear time. It felt important to place many of these poems in what I have come to think of as a “dreamspace,” where inconsistent, conflicting, or hazy timelines and stories could exist side by side.

Outside of poetry, the subjunctive mood is something that I find myself most comfortable working within. My fiction work has always been speculative, in part because of my interest in folklore and urban legends. In my current poetry and fiction alike, I continue to use the fantastical to explore and reinvent familiar tropes.

What is it about writing from and with Scarborough, our hometown, that enables you to stretch your writerly (and our readerly) imagination across space, time, continents, islands, and oceans?

On many occasions, I have heard others describe Scarborough as a “microcosm of the world.” Inside this microcosm, the chorus of voices of the suburb come to harmonize. I describe it as harmonization because that is what I have felt with other Scarborough artists – there is always a willingness to support, uplift, and collaborate. This kinship is something that enables me to feel audacious enough to stretch my imagination and take risks in my writing that I wouldn’t be confident in trying alone. While Bittersweet is technically a single-authored book, I owe a lot to our writing community in its creation.

What poets, and what writers, from the many traditions and literary scenes you’ve read, do you consider as part of Bittersweet’s genealogy?

I am very grateful to have had many literary traditions to draw inspiration from during the process of putting Bittersweet together. Books like Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman, Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return, and Carrianne Leung’s That Time I Loved You – among many, many other works – gave me a foundation to dream up different parts of the poetry collection.

What kind of future writing do you imagine your book might enable, whether in our hometown, or among audiences you haven’t yet imagined?

In the same way that [the aforementioned] texts afforded me the capacity to create my collection, I hope that Bittersweet might serve as a catalyst to further work. For me, the biggest marker of success for this collection would be if someone read these poems, felt a resonance with them, and then were spurred to work on their own art. I would like Bittersweet to be one part of larger conversations.


Natasha Ramoutar visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Gavin Jones
Andrew Wilmot, and Laila Malik. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.

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 10.03.21: Gavin Jones

Gavin Jones is a writer, poet, self-publisher, and educator who is based in Toronto. He is a past student of York University and author of From Suicide Kit to Liberating Liberty, a coming-of-age LGBTQ + novel about identity, sexuality, and self-acceptance. He’s also working on two other young adult fiction books and a self help guide for youth and adults to overcome emotional trauma. Gavin is passionate about working with young people, he believes in the power of storytelling to connect with youth locally and around the world. Gavin has also established a tutoring program to assist youth from low-income families to develop learning skills in the areas of high school math, English, and science. 

Ahead of his appearance at our March 10th event, Gavin shares two poems with us – the first, Cover Up, was written while grieving the loss of his mother in 2015. It was a reflection on the strength and bravery of his mother and the community of women who helped him through that difficult time. The second poem, Remember Me, is in memory of the many people who have passed away in 2020 and a reminder to their families to cherish the living.

Cover Up

Let me cover up the scars from last night.

Let me cover up the verbal filth that came from my spouses’ mouth, the rudeness from my teenage child, the abuse from the woman whose husband I’m sleeping with.

Let me cover up the scars that were left on my face, the bruises on my body.                                                                                               

Let me put on my makeup and show off my inner confidence. I’m going to let my strength come through the beauty that shows from the outside.          

Let me cover up the stains from the tears.                                            

Let me cover up those slaps across my face.                                         

Let me cover up with the strength of a woman. I am a woman. Am I truly a woman?

Am I covered up?

I have to cover up; I can’t let others see the weakness in me! I can’t let them see how my spouse and my children are abusing me. I can’t let them see the beat down from the man who is not loyal to me.

Let me cover up. Cover up years of hurt, guilt and shame.                    

Let me cover up the hypocrisy, the lies and the pain.                             

Let me cover up my own self shame and hatred to my own self.

I am a woman; an esteemed woman. A woman who holds the highest positions, a woman who manages people, a woman who is qualified more than most men. A woman who everyone talks about, a woman who walks with confidence, a woman who walks in a room and everyone gets nervous.                                                          

I am that woman, that type of woman. A woman who wears the title, miss, mam, madam, president, CEO. Dr. Professor, teacher. I am a woman whose strength become known away from home.

I am a woman who is covered up, and what does that say about me? Does it mean I’m weak because I covered up? Does it mean I’m not worthy of my title as a woman?

Woman thou woman, our lives are filled with storms and turmoil, our lives bear the scars of captured slaves. Our lives are tears, pain, hurt and guilt.

Despite our curses, despite our fears, despite our weakness, aren’t we still women in our own rights?

I hear the bickering, I hear the noise, I hear the laughter, from other women, but I leave you with this, what would they say about us if we walked away like most men?

Remember Me

The sun will never rise on my face again. A new day shall not awaken me. The sound of nature will be heard no more, for tomorrow I’ll be gone.

The folks I loved and dreamed about will rise to my ashes, and a jar shall hold all of me. I will go where the wind goes, and I shall sing what the birds sang. I will wait, wait for the day when life reincarnates and once again, I’ll become. 

Let not the empty echoes of my body frightens you, let not the teardrops of my past pain bring you sorrow. I’ve lived without you knowing me, I’ve cried tears of bitterness without you hearing me. My prayerful devotions have let me in monasteries and sanctuaries. I’ve died many times in front of your eyes and I’ve lived within your dreams. 

Wipe away those bitter tears, and pick up the pieces of your broken heart. While my soul rests for another joy, talk and laugh about the memories of old. 

Remember the dreams I’ve shared with you, remember the Joy’s we had, remember my pain and what I’ve overcome, remember me in the light of your beautiful world. Remember me in the darkest time, remember me when the shadows come, remember my tears, those loving and lonely, remember all that I am when I’m away in my new home. 

The sun will never rise on my face again. A new day shall not awaken me. The sound of nature will be heard no more, for tomorrow I’ll be gone, but I will wait, wait for the day when life reincarnates and once again, I’ll become. 

Gavin Jones visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Natasha Ramoutar, Andrew Wilmot, and Laila Malik. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.

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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