Monthly Archives: December 2013

BWS 08.01.14: Katie Boland

Katie BolandKatie Boland has been acting professionally since the age of nine, is currently filming a recurring role on the CW series, Reign, and in April, 2013, she published her first book, Eat Your Heart Out, a collection of short stories. Ahead of her January 8 visit to Brockton Writers Series, she stops by the blog to talk about beginning (to write) again.

“It’s hard to move forward when you don’t know what way you’re facing.”

– John Lennon

Writing came to me like a gift, like something I didn’t deserve. It was like shaking hands with the love of your life on a hot summer night, on a street corner in Montreal, the day after you were supposed to be gone already. He wore a blue shirt and I wore a pink dress.

Becoming a writer, like him, it hit me like a freight train. Like him, writing found me when I wasn’t looking for it but needed it most.

In the just over a year I had with the man I met on a street corner, the so far and maybe ultimate love of my life, there was a lot of rap music. There was dancing, talking, reading, watching, travelling, a voice I felt like I’d always known, his hand on the small of my back and sleeping well for the first time in my life. There was a lot of happy.

There was not a lot of writing.

“Can you imagine if we’d never met?” I asked him.

“I don’t like to think about that,” he said.

We broke up a month ago. Things I didn’t like to think about are now the reality I live in. Here I am, waking up every night at 4 a.m., jolted by an alarm I didn’t want to set. I feel like everyone else lives on Planet Earth. I live on Planet How The Fuck Did This Happen? Planet Make This Go Away.

But mostly, I live on Planet He’s Gone.

Lying awake, I have come closest to understanding that God, (or whoever), doesn’t fuck around. He gives but He also takes and doesn’t need to give back. I have been forced to accept that time and loss are enemies and best friends. I need time to move past this, but the more that passes, the more what I’ve lost is really gone.

Last night my friend Molly looked at me in Café Diplomatico, an Italian joint on College Street that’s very popular and not very good. “I wrote an article that comes out tonight,” she said. “It’s called ‘Don’t Cheat On Your Loneliness.’ I saw that written in a bathroom stall. Isn’t that perfect?”

Last night, in a taxi I didn’t need to take, I thought, “All I do lately is cheat on my loneliness.” Why shouldn’t I? How do I be true to something I hate so much?

“Write, I guess,” I heard a small voice say, then I sighed. I don’t want to write, I thought. I want this to be over.

Last night, at 4 a.m., awake again, I listened to that small voice because it’s really hard to ignore when my house is so quiet.

“Write,” she said.

She told me that through writing, one day, things will change. That one day, everything I write won’t be for or about him. With fingers pressed up against that keyboard, the lingering sense of him will have faded. That by writing — not by texting other men, not by seeing psychics, not by visiting rock stars in North Carolina — I will have not cheated on my loneliness.

I fell asleep.

I woke up again hours later. Today is the first day since we’ve broken up that I’ve sat back at this computer.

Of all the things that feel true lately, and there are many, the following remain the most shining and resolute. Writing and lovers will scoop out my insides, the parts that I don’t like, and show them to me. Only by stretching myself in the direction of loneliness will I come back again.  By writing alone, listening to a rap song he would  love, I will see what happened between he and I not as a tragedy but as my becoming. One day, I won’t miss him like this. One day, I will hope everyone gets to fall in love like we did.  One day, I will understand why this happened.

Katie Boland 2

Until then, I’ll write.

Katie Boland visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 – full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) – along with J.M. Frey, Michael Mirolla and Sherwin Tjia. Come early (6:30) for a talk by author Cory Silverberg about crowd-funding and how writers can put it to use.

The Brockton Writers Series blog returns Jan. 1, with our J.M. Frey feature — have a safe and happy holiday!

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BWS 08.01.14: Michael Mirolla

MIROLLA Image lMontreal-Toronto corridor writer Michael Mirolla’s publications include the novel Berlin (Bressani Prize winner), two short story collections, and the poetry collection, The House on 14th Avenue. His short story, “A Theory of Discontinuous Existence,” was selected for The Journey Prize Anthology. He is also the co-owner of Guernica Editions. Ahead of his January 8 visit, Michael drops by to tell about his latest novel, The Giulio Metaphysics III.


Of Immigrant Roots & Psychic Journeys: A Metafictional Approach

At the basis of my novel-cum-latest short story collection, The Giulio Metaphysics III, lies the journey – be it literal (as experienced by immigrants, for instance) or metaphorical. Translocations. Of being a stranger, of trying to adjust, of not knowing what to expect. It is this combination, this conjunction of literal and metaphorical journeys, that I’d like to address.

For those curious about the book’s title, there is actually some method to my madness: the reason for the III is a result of a continuation of several section headings from my first story collection, The Formal Logic of Emotion. There you will find two Giulio stories, the first – “A Theory of Discontinuous Existence” – under the heading “The Giulio Metaphysics I,” and the second – “The Proper Country” – under “The Giulio Metaphysics II” heading.

Which brings me to Giulio himself: each of the sections in The Giulio Metaphysics III is about a character named Giulio. Giulio may or may not be transferable from one section to the next. So either the book is about the fluidity of identity and the lack of essentialness in any attempt to define identity, or it’s about my inability to come up with enough different names to populate the 18 stories.

Giulio’s Italian-Canadian immigrant (literal journey) roots are obvious from his name and from the fact many of the stories reflect those roots – or at least bits and pieces: blood colouring the thick red sauce; a half-empty wine glass in his pale-blue hand; his mother’s special cake, layered in vanilla and chocolate cream and soaked in vermouth. The seventh story, “And the attendance of weddings,” is a dialogue in dramatic form between “Giulio” and another character in which they discuss the details of Italian-Canadian weddings.

So we can assume with some assurance that the character Giulio is Italian-Canadian. But what about his psychic journey, the more universal journey we all experience? In The Giulio Metaphysics III, Giulio feels he is being controlled by someone else, someone who calls himself “the creator.” So the question then becomes: Is Giulio’s Italian-Canadian-ness something that defines him? Or is it something that has been imposed on him?

When I was young, I didn’t consciously go out and do “Italian” things. Except when in the house with my parents, where I was forced to speak Italian dialect because that’s what they understood, I didn’t use the language. My favourite sports were football and baseball; my favourite authors were Franz Kafka and James Joyce; when it came time to attend university I didn’t go to Loyola, the one recommended by my teachers for good Italian Catholic boys and girls, but to McGill. I avoided Italian festivals and associations. I studied the English Romantic poets at university. I penned my first fledgling attempts at creative writing in English. And yet… and yet… in the end, I was still classified as a first-generation Italian-Canadian immigrant. It was as if I were caught… trapped in some type of cultural schizophrenia: one part of me dictated by others; another part trying desperately to create itself and separate itself.

In a much more symbolic and literary way, Giulio undergoes something similar. In the first part of the Metaphysics, Giulio feels as if he’s being controlled, manipulated. He finds himself involved in conversations with his creator, (that’s me, I guess), arguing about how I don’t allow him to have his own life, actions, thoughts, feelings… in a word, his own identity. The creator is forcing Giulio to act in ways he thinks are beneficial rather than those that make up the essential nature of the person.

But then the question: what exactly is the essential nature of that person? What is Giulio’s core identity? In the Metaphysics, Giulio dumps his controlling creator. And then what? Giulio, having abandoned the status provided him by the creator, (like a passport or citizenship papers), flounders in a type of no man’s land. A place where identity is scraped down to the essence. No homeland, no religion, no clan, no family – what does it then mean to be human?

This is the postmodern existentialist position. While it appears, at first, to go much deeper than the other labels that attach themselves to us, the problem is that such a position consists basically of digging out the foundations beneath your feet. And then digging it out again… and so on to infinity.

This “existential freedom” quickly leads to loss of memory and identity, to dislocation, and to a re-living of past events without the original context: a bit, I would venture to say, like someone who fights to strip away his or her roots and ends up with…

Giulio undergoes this process in Metaphysics. In a literal sense, he loses himself. Unable to remember his name, where he is, why he is here and not there, what has happened to get him where he is, what the past means, where the present is going. In some ways, this mirrors much of our world today once we tear away the pillars that have supported our beliefs, our logic, our confidence. In other ways, it represents a much longer-standing concern faced by all human beings: the consciousness of mortality.

So what’s the solution to this? Well, obviously there is no solution to mortality… to that ultimate loss of identity… no matter how many anti-aging creams we might apply. But there may be a way to recover that identity in the brief time we do have. On his physical and psychic journey, Giulio comes full circle, ending pretty much right back where he started – in a house eerily similar to the one found in the first part of the collection. In other words, like it or not, he finds himself once more in the midst of the Italian-Canadian symbols that he despised when he felt he was being controlled by his creator, (me): symbols of cooking, xenophobic but loving mothers, wine-making and consumption, elaborate marriage events, death and funeral rites. A world both familiar and unfamiliar. The old world seen through new eyes.

By now, Giulio should have got the hint. He should have worked out what exactly he needs to do to free himself from having others impose an identity on him. And, after a long series of nudges, he does finally. Ironically, however, he can only do this once he has been forced into a corner… into a situation that allows for no escape. Giulio has to be trapped, (symbolically in the Metaphysics, within a sealed room that provides him with all the amenities but not the key to the door), before he understands what his core identity is. For Giulio, (as for me, I guess), that identity comes from what I am: a writer — someone who creates his own story — of Italian-Canadian descent obviously but not defined that way… a person who above all things has to dig his way through words in order to try to make sense of the world and of this enigmatic creature known as a human being.

metaphysics_printMichael Mirolla visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 – full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) – along with Katie Boland, J.M. Frey and Sherwin Tjia. Come early (6:30) for a talk by author Cory Silverberg about crowd-funding and how writers can put it to use.

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

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BWS 08.01.14: Sherwin Tjia

just cover of z catbook

Sherwin Tjia is a Montreal-based writer and illustrator who has written eight books, including The World is a Heartbreaker,  a collection of 1600 pseudohaikus and finalist for the Quebec Writer’s Federation’s A.M. Klein Poetry Award, and The Hipless Boy, a collection of short, interconnected stories told in graphic novel form that was a finalist for the Doug Wright Award in the Best Emerging Talent category and also nominated for 4 Ignatz Awards. His invention, The E-Z-Purr: The Virtual Cat! (an album with over an hour of cats purring) is available on the iTunes music storeHe drops by the blog this week to talk about… cats!

So, I am pretty cat-crazy. Two years ago I wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure-style book from the POV of a cat called You Are a Cat! It was a blast to write and illustrate and now, its sequel, You Are a Cat in the Zombie Apocalypse! launches in Toronto on Sunday.

To celebrate, I decided to make some Rorschach ink blots. Or, in this case, RorschCAT ink blots, to suss out my subconscious mind and to see what I see.

RorschCAT Blot 01

1. I see a warm and smiley cat, on the delightfully chubby side. Fluffy as fuck, but still likes to roll around in front of the fireplace.

RorschCAT Blot 02

2. I see a sly cat. One that’s a little mischevous, and likes to bat at your feet when they are under the covers and you are trying to go to sleep.

RorschCAT Blot 03

3. I see a refined cat, one that is at home around people and loves large parties. Who isn’t afraid of all the action, and the late nights. Who likes to come out and rub themselves against every stockinged leg, leaving its hair everywhere.

RorschCAT Blot 04

4. I see a rambunctious cat, who’ll happily play with puddles of water in the tub, who’ll leap off the backs of chairs and fall stupidly, shaking themselves sober, and try again.

RorschCAT Blot 05

5. I see a robot cat. The future of felines.

RorschCAT Blot 06

6. I see a sleeping cat who likes to blend in, hiding deep in the depths of a comforter, living in its creases, only sometimes poking its nose out for air. A cat who has mastered moving as little as possible when resting and moving as much as it can when awake.


You can get my first Cat book here, and my second cat book here.

just back cover of z catbook

Sherwin Tjia visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 – full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) – along with Katie Boland, J.M. Frey and Michael Mirolla. Come early (6:30) for a talk by author Cory Silverberg about crowd-funding and how writers can put it to use.

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

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Brockton Writers Series: 08.01.14

Ring in 2014 with Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, January 8, at full of beans Coffee House & Roastery (1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto) and enjoy readings by:

Katie Boland, J.M. Frey, Michael Mirolla and Sherwin Tjia!

Plus, come early — 6:30pm — for a talk by author Cory Silverberg about crowd funding and how writers can put it to use! 

PWYC (suggested $3-$5). Q&A. Books and treats available for sale. Please note that while the venue is wheelchair accessible, washroom facilities are not.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

Print

As always, watch this space for more with each of our writers in the month to come!

AUTHOR BIOS:

Chosen by Elle Canada as one of the top three Canadians to watch, by Playback as one of 10 2 Watch and by the Toronto International Film Festival as one of their inaugural “Rising Stars” in 2011, actor and writer Katie Boland divides her time between Los Angeles and Toronto. Acting professionally since the age of nine with over 45 roles to date, Boland’s credits include Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, Atom Egoyan’s Adoration, Daydream Nation and Terminal City as well as four films to be released this year: Ferocious, Looking is the Original Sin, Sex After Kids and Gerotrophilia. Boland’s literary debut, a collection of short stories entitled Eat Your Heart Out, was released by Canadian publisher Brindle & Glass on April 2, 2013. She is currently filming a recurring role on CW’s hit show, Reign.

J.M. Frey is an actor, author, fanthropologist and pop culture scholar. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, webseries, and on television. Her debut novel Triptych (Dragon Moon Press) was named one of Publishers Weekly‘s Best Books of 2011, and nominated for a handful of awards, including two Lambda Literary Awards and a CBC Bookie.

Calling himself a Montreal-Toronto corridor writer, Michael Mirolla’s publications include the novels Berlin (Bressani Prize winner) and The Giulio Metaphysics III; two short fiction collections; and the poetry collection The House on 14th Avenue. His short story, “A Theory of Discontinuous Existence,” was selected for The Journey Prize Anthology. He is the co-owner of Guernica Editions.

Sherwin Sullivan Tjia is a Montreal-based writer and illustrator who has written eight books, the newest of which launches in Toronto on December 8. His previous books include The World is a Heartbreaker,  a collection of 1600 pseudohaikus and finalist for the Quebec Writer’s Federation’s A.M. Klein Poetry Award, and The Hipless Boy, a collection of short, interconnected stories told in graphic novel form that was a finalist for the Doug Wright Award in the Best Emerging Talent category and also nominated for 4 Ignatz Awards. His invention, The E-Z-Purr: The Virtual Cat! (an album with over an hour of cats purring) is available on the iTunes music store.

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