Monthly Archives: June 2013

BWS 10.07.13: Brian Francis

Though Brian Francis has published two novels, (2009 Canada Reads finalist Fruit, and 2011’s Natural Order), he’s still not quit his day job! Today, he drops by the blog to tell us why.  

Let’s face it – writing isn’t the most lucrative of professions. You can spend years working on a book to have it sell only a few hundred copies. It doesn’t take a business whiz to understand that’s not exactly a profitable return on your investment. My advice? Don’t quit the day job. Not yet, anyway.

I used to think that having a day job meant I wasn’t a good writer. And while it’s still sometimes easy to fall into the trap of believing that I should, in theory, be able to support myself fully on my fiction writing (after all, there are writers who do that quite well), I need to remind myself that my day job isn’t a hindrance, but a blessing. Here’s why:

I don’t have to rush.
Having a day job means that I’m not publishing out of necessity. My last book took me seven years to write. And while I’m not exactly proud of that, my day job gives me the luxury to publish something when I feel it’s ready, not when the bills are piling up.

I write the stories I want to write.
At some point in every writer’s career, you have to reconcile the types of stories you’re compelled to write. And while those stories might be interesting to you, they may not be interesting to the vast majority of readers. So understand that there can be financial limitations to your writing–especially if your books aren’t about life in the 18th century or teenage virgins in love with vampires, or don’t contain the words “wife,” “mistress” or “daughter” in the title.

You get to lead a secret life.
There are people at work who don’t know about my writing life. They never see me in that capacity. And that’s kind of cool in a Clark Kent sort-of-way.

You inspire others.
Most of us, hopefully, have dreams that help us make it through the day. And while I’m not saying I’m doing everything right, I am saying that if I can do it, you can, too. Writers with day jobs are proof that there are, in fact, enough hours in the day, that dedication pays off and that dreams don’t have to die if you don’t allow them to.

Granted, there are downsides. Whatever vacation time I get is allocated to writing, which results in, er, no vacation time. It can be tough juggling the demands of your two worlds. And you’ll always be plagued by the question, “Would I be a better writer if it was my full time job?” But there’s no point asking. That’s not your reality. Not right now, anyway. And while that may change down the road, it’s best to hunker down, stay focused and write – every chance you get.

Brian Francis visits the Brockton Writers Series July 10, 2013 – full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) – along with Lydia Perović, Shani Mootoo and Rose Cullis.

Watch this space for more with each of our readers in the month leading up to the event!


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BWS 10.07.13: Lydia Perović

Lydia Perović drops by the blog in advance of her appearance July 10 – BWS’s annual Queer Night! – with a few words about gender-bending and the opera.

En travesti: Cross-dressing for a living 

I wanted to tell you about trouser roles in opera.

They’re also called “breeches” and “pants roles” and hosenrolle, and they involve women singing male roles. The young aristocrats, the soldiers, the bewitched emos, the mama’s boys, the gamut. Whatever the type, s/he will always end up courting a girl. Singing with and to her. Making out. And so on. (And it does get much better.  You can’t watch some clips on YouTube without signing up and confirming you’re over eighteen.)

How is this lesbo domain of the operatic tradition even possible? It just so happened that the western world stopped snipping young men for purposes of cultivating the castrato voice, and the roles of the primo uomo were gradually repopulated by women singing in the mezzosoprano and contralto range. They fit wonderfully. So the carrying-on carried on undisturbed.

But not all is owed to the castratos. There are also roles in opera in which the character is a woman, but she cross-dresses for the plot. Composers have made a lot of roles like that for women. And they often include quite a bit of carrying on with the soprano.

Castratos or not, pretenses or not, trouser roles kept being created because it’s a Damn Good Thing Any Way You Look At It.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that opera is queer, so why do I go on about this particular department of its queerness?

Because I used the trouser role mezzo-with-soprano setup for sections of my novel, Incidental Music. In it, the retired soprano struggles with the memories of her own past affair with a mezzo — and her reminiscing often leads her to the opera scenes that she and the mezzo had sung.

But here is a selection of the s-m scenes that will give you an idea of how these things go.


L’Incoronazione di Poppea (1650s), two lovers unable to part ways in the morning. Glyndebourne production 2008.

(For a more stylized and abstract, therefore possibly more tense version of the same, head here)


What if Romeo was a woman? In opera, he always is. I Capuleti e i Montecchi  (1830), Paris 2008 production.


Sarah Connolly’s turn as a very British Empire Giulio Cesare from the 2005 Glyndebourne production of Handel’s eponymous opera is always a joy.


When you leave an older lover for an ingénue, music can be devastatingly good. The trio from Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier (1911), in a Vienna State Opera production from 1994.


Cherubino from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (1786) on why he can’t focus when there are women around. A Zurich production from the late nineties.


And finally, a recent Toronto Cherubino: Teiya Kasahara in Against the Grain’s 2013 production.

Cherubino. Photo by Darryl Block.

Photo by Darryl Block.

Happy Pride!

Lydia Perović visits the Brockton Writers Series July 10, 2013 – full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) – along with Brian Francis, Shani Mootoo and Rose Cullis.

Watch this space for more with each of our readers in the month leading up to the event!


Filed under Writers & Performers

Brockton Writers Series 10.07.13

July 10 is Brockton Writers Series’ annual Queer Night, with readings by:

Lydia Perovic, Brian Francis, Rose Cullis and Shani Mootoo!

Wednesday, July 10, 6:30-8:30pm

full of beans Coffee House & Roastery – 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto

Networking begins at 6:30; readings at 7:00.

PWYC (suggested $3-$5). Q&A. Books and treats available for sale.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.



Lydia Perovic has written for The Awl, n + 1, Joyland, Xtra!, Opera Canada, C Magazine and Incidental Music is her first novel. She grew up in the then-Yugoslavia, moved to Nova Scotia in 1999 to complete an MA in Political Theory, and has lived in Toronto since 2005. Her opera blog is Definitely The Opera.

Brian Francis is the author of two critically-acclaimed novels. His most recent, Natural Order, was selected by the Toronto Star, Kobo and Georgia Straight as a Best Book of 2011, and was also shortlisted for the 2012 Ontario Library Association Evergreen Award. His first novel, Fruit, was a 2009 Canada Reads finalist and was selected as a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers title. Brian’s fiction has also appeared in 07: Best Canadian Stories (Oberon Press), and he is a former recipient of the Writers’ Union of Canada’s Emerging Author Award. He lives in Toronto.

The world premiere of Rose Cullis‘s play, The Happy Woman, was produced by Nightwood Theatre in March 2012 and shortlisted for the prestigious Carol Bolt award.  Her other plays include The Dinner Party (Rhubarb) and Baal (Buddies in Bad Times, Mainstage), and her work has been published in anthologies including Playwrights Canada Press’s Outspoken and You’re Making a Scene, and Signature Editions’ Two Hands Clapping.

Shani Mootoo was born in Dublin, Ireland, grew up in Trinidad, and has spent her adult life in Canada. Her books include Cereus Blooms at Night, long listed for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Giller Prize; He Drown She in the Sea, which was long listed for the Dublin IMPAC Award, and Valmiki’s Daughter, long listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She is a recipient of the K. M. Hunter Artists Award for Literature. Her latest novel, Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, a Doubleday publication, is scheduled for release in Spring 2014.

Watch this space for more on each of these four writers in the month leading up to the event – starting with a guest post from Lydia this Wednesday!

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