Monthly Archives: April 2014

BWS 07.05.14: Tom Cho

Tom Cho - book cover

Tom Cho‘s collection, Look Who’s Morphing, was originally published to acclaim in Australia, where it was shortlisted for multiple awards and is now in its second printing; in North America and Europe, it has just been published by Arsenal Pulp Press, and launched in Toronto last night. In addition to Look Who’s Morphing, Tom’s fiction has appeared widely, in publications including the Best Australian Stories series, Asia Literary Review and The New Quarterly. He stopped by the blog this week to expand on a few thoughts his book provoked in this reader.


BWS
: You’re a writer who has quite literally stepped into the shoes of a different person in stories like “Dirty Dancing,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Bodyguard” and more, using plots not so different than the source material but inserting a new narrator in the place of Baby, Maria, and Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner). And the title story is about characters who can morph into anyone they see on television. Is there a master statement here about (re)appropriation, or idealization, or imitation and identity (or something else entirely)?

Tom: I wouldn’t call it a master statement, but here’s one word that comes to mind: re-imagining. In my book, I playfully re-imagine the universes of different texts, including some pop cultural works of which I’m a fan, such as The Muppet Show.

I consider my book’s central theme to be identity, particularly personal identity. But a big problem I faced while writing the book was: how to speak of identity? On the one hand, “identity” is this term that’s so freely (in fact, often indiscriminately) used; yet, on the other hand, identity is a pretty abstract concept, which can be intimidating because it doesn’t let us in very easily.

One way to speak of identity is by creatively responding to different texts. Texts (including films, books, TV shows and music) provide texture or terrain for forming and reforming our identities. That’s a big reason why Look Who’s Morphing makes such explicit use of textual reference. And, in re-imagining the plots and protagonists of Dirty Dancing, The Sound of Music, The Bodyguard, etc., I was able to explore some important emotional territory because we invest texts with a lot of aspirations and desires. This is why, in our encounters with texts, we can be so deeply disappointed by what we do and don’t find.

When we don’t re-approach texts in imaginative ways, life becomes not only mundane, but dangerously so. It means that stories are read in the same kinds of ways and power rests with the same kinds of stories and people. It means, for example, that texts get read in ways that remove traces of certain types of people and their lives and desires. So re-imagining texts is this vital practice and it’s to be used not only for writing books and making other kinds of art, but for living our lives.

BWS: “Tom Cho” is the main character in several stories. But it’s obvious that some of these stories aren’t factually true — take the hilarious, hyperbolic translations of Chinese names in “Dinner with My Brother,” for example. How do you balance fact and fiction when you write?

Tom: You mentioned “hyperbolic” in your question. I love working with hyperbole, among other forms of artistic excess. I’m also into artifice and irony. And I seriously dig stylization. All of this is very much reflected in Look Who’s Morphing. As I’ve said before, I like to write fiction that flaunts its fictitiousness.

That said, all fiction flirts with fact, if only because it’s written and read by flesh-and-blood people who live real lives. And in the midst of all of the fictitiousness of my work, it’s a really understandable desire to want to draw correlations from fiction to fact. I wrote a book that’s full of outrageously fanciful tales and I get asked all the time whether the characters are based on real people, including myself. I think a big reason why we ask those questions is because we live in a world of real-life experiences and consequences, and we look to stories not only to help us organize and make sense of that world, but to help us intervene into particularly entrenched and pernicious ways of making sense of the world. So there are important tensions between fiction and fact because the stakes are high with stories.

In the end, I hope that I’ve written a book that rewards creative readings. As I said, in writing Look Who’s Morphing, I playfully re-imagined these TV shows and films and other texts. In turn, I encourage my reader to bring their imagination and sense of play to Look Who’s Morphing. That might also include resisting the impulse to flatten out the play of the book by reading in search of conclusive answers to questions of fact and fiction. The book is called Look Who’s Morphing, so it is worth keeping those kinds of questions liquid and alive, which helps to create the conditions for one to endlessly re-imagine the book. And re-imagining is, as I mentioned earlier, a practice that has real-life consequences too.

PS: Over the course of my arts career, a lot of attention has been paid to my status as an artist from various minority groups. I get asked what it’s like to write as a person of Asian background, as a queer person, etc. And while those considerations are definitely important (even if some questions get a bit boring), I write fiction, which means that I overlay all that “writing as” with “writing as if.” I’m always appending the fictive as if to the words of the creative pieces that I write and I think that writing as if makes its own claims to truth. After all, surely “truth” doesn’t always mean “facts.” We can look to lots of different sources to find different kinds of truths, however provisional those truths are. Sometimes we look to works that we deem non-fiction; sometimes we turn to eyewitness accounts for verification; sometimes we give much credibility to scientific approaches. Some people look to the words of prophets and other figures — in fact, sometimes, we try to do truth through how we act. So “truth” can also mean, for example, “words to live your life by.” And, in this latter sense at least, I harbor a hunch that fiction can be a circuitous form of truth-telling.

BWS: “Chinese Whispers” is a story about a game (“Telephone,” to North American children) that appears to also be a version of the game. How do you see the connection between game-playing and fiction (in your own work, or more generally)? 

Tom: I could write thousands of words in response to this question, but here’s one shorter take: reading is like a guessing game. As we read, we make guesses of many types, including guesses as to the author’s intentions and (particularly in the case of fiction) the plot. As we read, we also predict and anticipate meanings. And let’s face it: some story structures are more predictable than others and, more to the point, some ways of reading are more predictable than others.

So, in developing Look Who’s Morphing I tried to write this porous and open-ended work that, in one sense, is like a big playground for the guessing game that is reading. And a serious part of that play (which can also be seriously fun) is the part where I as the author play with readers’ expectations and with routinized ways of reading. I find that working with fiction can offer me a lot of licence to do that. This isn’t to say that my own fiction can’t also, in the end, be read in some banal ways anyway. But I hope that, in the course of my play, I create lots of potential for playful readings.

Tom Cho visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 — full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) — along with Adam Abbas, Kate Cayley, and Amanda Leduc. Come early, too (6:30) for a special talk by Amanda: “From Couchsurfing to Cafés: The Magic of the D.I.Y. Book Tour”!

IMG-20140429-00490

Tom Cho, right, launching Look Who’s Morphing at Story Planet, April 29, 2014 — with friend to BWS, Vivek Shraya, no less!

 

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BWS 07.05.14: Adam Abbas

Adam Abbas headshot

Adam Abbas is more interested in what’s muttered after the phone call than the phone call itself. His poems can be found in various publications including The Continuist and Lantern (available here!). His first poetry book, A State, A Statue, A Statute, will be published by the Vancouver-based Steel Bananas Art Collective in Summer, 2014. He lives in Toronto. Twitter: @Adam_M_Abbas.  

BWS: Your poem “Enemy” is a sestina, repeating the words “hush,” “lies,” “crunch,” “denial,” “aware” and “turn”, one per line, in a varying order. Where did you discover the form, and why do you like it? What does such “repetition with difference” accomplish in this poem?

Adam: I was first introduced to the form  in university via the only creative writing class I ever took. I learned later that I wasn’t supposed to even be in the course, and it was a mystery how I got in. Weird life, but anyway I had a great professor named Michael Helm who taught us different poetic forms, and I took to the sestina as well as the villanelle.

I heard George Elliott Clarke read one of his sestinas years ago and I enjoyed it. I had only written one sestina beforehand, it was for the aforementioned class. I remember writing it in the lunchroom of the bread factory I used to work at, and dealing with my co-workers’ snide comments. But that’s over with.

In retrospect, I think hearing his sestina gave me additional impetus to keep writing my own. They take time and there’s criticism lobbied against sestinas (and form in general) – that they’re more enjoyable for the author rather than the reader, and that they’re not spontaneous and lack verve. But I didn’t feel that way hearing Mr. Clarke, and as we all know, opinion isn’t fact. Speaking of which, can reviewers please refer to themselves in their reviews? Instead of saying “you”, say “I.” It seems like some of them try to angle readers of reviews into thinking that the review’s opinion will be their own as well.

But with regards to the sestina’s style, I think the repetition allows each ending word to adopt a new meaning, and asks for a deeper look into what a word means. Sestinas can break words apart and then fuse them back together. I was drawn to a sestina’s lack of a necessary rhyme scheme found in other forms, with the emphasis being on the end words themselves.

BWS: The prose poem “Love Stories” builds an incredible rhythm through its sentences’ internal rhymes, (e.g., “crowds of people mourned at the bog and swapped Pogs with the pollywogs while the undertaker’s heartbreaker watched from afar for widows with scars…”). How do you see the divide (if there is one at all) between form and content in such a piece? How do you balance the reading experience with a concern for narrative?

Adam: Thank you, that poem also took a long time to write. I’ve always enjoyed trying to create clever wordplay, I think a lot of people do. It’s not really written off as “kitschy” all that easily, it takes effort. Someone told me that he read one of my rhyming prose poems out loud, quietly to himself, to feel the rhythm. That’s an  honour. Thank you Zoltan, if you happen to see this.

Form and content are inseparable. I spent a lot of time agonizing over how the poem had to make sense. I didn’t want it to be a blather of rhymes, because that’s lazy and doesn’t give a reader that much respect, I believe. Plus a reader might be in the dark enough already due to some of the obscure words themselves. So as clever as the rhymes might be, they need cohesion and clarity to shine. “Love Stories”  is a series of short vignettes, and I worked to make each as logical and intriguing as possible, but still using the rhymes I had created.

There are a few rhyming prose poems in my upcoming poetry book A State, A Statue, A Statute, and two of them are meant to be more of an exploration in wordplay. “Last Night, the Last Night” is about recreating the feeling of driving aimlessly at night, and the beauty and danger to be felt along the way. “Supper as the Linoleum Curls” is meant to reflect the constant chatter of a loud, hedonistic dining area, with one voice and its story cutting through the rest. But with “Love Stories,” it’s meant to weave tales together.

BWS: You’ve written a book of 101 limericks. Tell us more about this form: anything you’ve learned about its history/tradition, its social acceptability, its modern popularity, etc. What is it like to try to write a limerick in our time? Why such an interest in this form?

Adam Abbas limericks 2

To buy a copy of Adam’s book of limericks, contact him on Twitter (address above!).

Adam: It’s just a fun side project I did. I was inspired by David Bateman  reading limericks, and I thought it would be fun to try them out. So I wrote 101 of them and I think I’m sick of rhyming now, but it felt amazing at times. Aside from hearing David’s limericks, though, I wasn’t that familiar with the form. Of course there were popular ones, like the man from Nantucket, and I knew that they were supposed to be raunchy to an extent, but that’s it.

I was interested in writing them because of two important issues I wanted to explore: sexuality and humour. But they’re tricky; I wanted to have a good sense of taste and substance about them, but joke around as well, without transforming myself into a caricature by writing them. I also wanted to explore sexuality issues such as the pleasure paradox and the female orgasm, and more serious issues like body image, slut-shaming, the bad boy/nice girl attraction. The limericks don’t heavily delve into these topics — I just wanted them to be fun, informative and fair without being didactic or classless.

Sexuality is hard to write about, in my opinion. I’m tired of sex pushed into my face through constant ads and media. It degrades the importance of the actual act to the point where it’s meaningless and feels like it contributes to an uncomfortable, fake kind of society. It confuses people. Still, it’s an important subject, and I value it, and a lot of us want to read about it. And humour, I like to be funny, I like to make people laugh. I don’t want to create the same tone over and over, either. I like to see people good at one thing, but I also like to see range where it’s appropriate. And I wanted to give people a lighter, witty read, so that’s where the limericks came from.  A State, A Statue, A Statute is a much different publication.

And this is a true story: after I finished the first draft of my limericks, I bought a book of them. Started to read them on the subway and was disgusted by how they promoted pedophilia, racism, just the worst. I started to feel gross being around other people with the book on me. It had these two lurid photos of laughing faces on the front and back cover. I threw it out.

Then I started to get concerned that people would think my limericks were the same way, which they aren’t. I didn’t want to promote or make light of homophobia, sexual abuse, racism, violence, et al. It’s disgusting, that’s not who I am. And people’s perception of my limericks might be understood as the ones I bought and read, offensive and dated history. I’m not trying to reinvent the meaning of the limerick — there are plenty of odd, bawdy ones of mine — but they’re not cheering on ignorance like the ones I was exposed to. Everyone may have different opinions of my work, but I didn’t want to offend anyone because that’s not rewarding to me.

BWS: What can readers expect to find inside A State, A Statue, A Statute?

Adam: It’s my first published book of poems, a collection of formal and free verse poetry, mainly formal – rhyming prose poems, sestinas, villanelles, ghazals, haiku. The poems cover a lot, from Sammy Yatim to a man running into a stadium while reciting lines from romance novels to a pet toad.  It’s been in the making for awhile.  Andrew McEwan graciously helped me edit it — thank you, Andrew, you verified a lot of my underlying concerns — and endless thanks to Karen Correia da Silva, who’s publishing it. It should be out this summer. I can’t give a grand statement, but it’s the culmination of a lot of work and consideration and I hope people enjoy it.

BWS: What are you working on now/next?

Adam: I’m currently working on a book of short stories about the TTC.  I’m also starting to prepare to read some books as research for my second novel, for which I’ve been compiling notes these past seven years. I guess this is the official public announcement that a second novel will be coming from me in the future.

Adam Abbas Static Zine food issue (2)

To find out how to buy a copy of Static Zine’s food issue, featuring one of Adam’s stories, click this photo!

And finally, I just want to give a huge thanks to Farzana, BWS and the Ontario Arts Council for this opportunity! And also to everyone who’s given me a chance by publishing me or featuring me at a series, and to all my friends and my parents for the support.

Adam Abbas visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 — full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) — along with Kate Cayley, Tom Cho and Amanda Leduc. Come early, too (6:30) for a special talk by Amanda: “From Couchsurfing to Cafés: The Magic of the D.I.Y. Book Tour”!

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BWS 07.05.14: Kate Cayley

Kate Cayley brick photo (2)

Kate Cayley’s first collection of poetry, When This World Comes to an End, is published by Brick Books. She has also written a young adult novel, The Hangman in the Mirror, published by Annick Press. She is the artistic director of Stranger Theatre, and has co-created, directed and written eight plays with the company. She is a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre, and her play After Akhmatova was produced as part of Tarragon’s 40th anniversary season. Her new play, The Bakelite Masterpiece, will be performed at Tarragon in Fall, 2014, and her first short story collection, How You Were Born, is forthcoming from Pedlar Press. Kate drops by this week for an interview ahead of her May 7 visit.

BWS: You’ve written plays, a young adult novel, poetry and now a collection of short stories. How does working in multiple genres affect your process? Do you find that knowing how to write a play, for instance, helps with your fiction or poems? What can these genres teach each other, and what have you learned?

Kate: At the best of times, working across forms helps me to think about form seriously—what is integral to poetry, what to theatre, what to fiction? I think of poetry and theatre as quite linked forms. Not in the use of language—plain and sometimes even clumsy speech is essential to a play—but that success is often achieved through sparseness of execution, through cutting away. And they share an eerily similar relationship to time: they are precise expressions of an absolutely present moment, though poetry is reflective for me, and theatre is forward propulsion. I find theatre much more difficult structurally than poetry; because the terms of drama are pretty fixed, at least for me, it’s not something I can play with. Poetry seems more open, though this might be laziness—perhaps I should cleave to the rules more. In contrast, fiction is more relaxed. Of course it demands focus, but it can contain both reflection and forward movement. Though fiction still feels like unexplored territory for me, something I’m just beginning to understand (not that I understand the other two!).

At the worst of times, working in numerous genres means I am not serious in my attention, that my focus is always split. That worries me. But in an ideal world, I’d like to keep working in multiple forms and still improve my game—it’s not impossible. I think the forms do genuinely teach each other things: how to tell a story, how to be simple and direct, how to explore an image, how to focus, how to pull away and let go. I don’t think I’ve learned all those things, but I hope I am learning, slowly.

BWS: The poems in When This World Comes to an End predominantly look into the past, based often on old photographs and the people in them. Why this fascination with history? And were the poems intended to be written as a group for the collection, or did you compile them after finding yourself returning again and again to the archives?

Kate: I’ve always been fascinated with history, but with imagining it as much as recounting it, which is what poetry (or theatre or fiction) can do—explore that blank space where the record trails off, becomes banal or simply murky. There’s a moral problem with this of course, because you are inventing a more coherent or more beautiful past, but it can’t be helped.

In terms of the collection, I think of these history poems as imagining a life that is unimaginable—especially in the photography poems, based on images in the City of Toronto Archives. It was the anonymity of the faces in these photographs that drew me in the first place. They were so beautiful, and so deeply opaque, startling so. That seemed to fit as a subject for poetry.

The middle section was conceived as a whole; in fact, it’s made up of highlights from an earlier book-length manuscript that I discarded. You can’t make a book out of photographs. Or I can’t. The rest of the poems, while thematically linked, were for the most part written separately, and collected over years.

I do admire poetry collections that form a coherent narrative, and would love to write one someday.

BWS: What can readers expect from your new short story collection, due out this fall?

Kate: Love. Families. Modern ghost stories. Very strange children. Present-day Toronto and the mountains of West Virginia in 1968. Some darkness and some hope.

BWS: How do you pick your projects? In which genre will you be working next, and why?   

Kate: This sounds affected, but I think you don’t exactly pick. As in, you get obsessed with a thing—a story, an image, a sentence that is obviously the beginning of something, at least temporarily—until it finds a proper form, and you write it, often disappointingly, because it seems so limited on the page, when it was so vast in your head. Maybe this gets better with practice, this feeling of the space between what you wanted and what you made. I suspect not, or not very much.

Up next is a play called The Bakelite Masterpiece, which is about art forgery and war crimes. It will run as part of Tarragon Theatre’s season in fall 2014. I am also working on a play for Zuppa Kate Cayley-When This World Comes to an End.72 (2)Theatre, which is a company in Halifax, and a new, solo play about a teacher who develops a frightening relationship with a damaged young woman in her classroom. Both of these are in very early stages.

I am also working on a second collection of poetry, tentatively titled Wolf at the Door. And I dream of writing a novel, but that remains a fantasy at the moment. Fingers crossed for next year.

BWS: So are ours! Thanks for stopping by the blog, Kate.

Kate Cayley visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 — full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) — along with Adam Abbas, Tom Cho and Amanda Leduc. Come early, too (6:30) for a special talk by Amanda: “From Couchsurfing to Cafés: The Magic of the D.I.Y. Book Tour”!

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BWS 07.05.14: Amanda Leduc

Amanda Leduc

Photo by Trevor Cole.

Amanda Leduc is the author of the novel The Miracles of Ordinary Men, (ECW Press, 2013). Her stories and essays have appeared in publications including The RumpusElle CanadaPrairie Fire, Little Fiction and—just last week!—Tampa Review Online. In 2012, she was shortlisted and published in both The New Quarterly‘s Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest and PRISM International‘s short fiction contest. Amanda is the editor of Little Fiction‘s sister non-fiction publication, Big Truths, and lives in Hamilton, Ont., where she’s working on her next novel. Below, she tells us how it feels to read in public—which she’ll be doing for us on May 7! 

Public Freaking

My knees shake whenever I’m about to read my work in public. It happens every single time. I’ll be standing there in front of my mic, flipping through pages, excited and happy because isn’t this what you’ve always wanted, Writer, this chance to read your VERY OWN BOOK out loud to an audience? Isn’t this what you’ve longed for and hoped for and thought about all those long nights ago when you were still in the process of putting words down on the page? You imagined reading to a crowd and thought: that will be so much more than perfect.

And then you get to that stage with your book, and your knees start jittering and to cover it up you try to say something funny but it fails—polite titters of laughter, that most terrible of sounds—and your throat clams up and you miss one word and then two and suddenly your mind is filled with four-letter words that you should not, cannot, MUST NOT say in public. (Unless, of course, your book is already filled with them. In which case, go ahead.)

You pray that no one sees your leg, hop-hopping there behind your mic stand. Failed, un-funny introduction behind you, you start reading. You won’t freak out. You won’t. And slowly, your nervousness slides back into excitement. Your heart beats and you remember: this is great. This is what you’ve always wanted.

Then you realize that the rhythm isn’t coming from your heart at all. It’s coming from your foot, which is thumping against the stage like an overexcited rabbit. Loudly. Obviously.

The audience, bless them, hasn’t said a thing.

*

I was not prepared for how weird it would feel, having a book out there in the world. Sure it was great. Spectacular, even. And sure, I enjoyed everything about this new turn of events—seeing my book on shelves, talking to strangers about it, reading it in front of these same strangers. But I hadn’t expected that the enjoyment itself would seem strange—not deserved, in some way, or tricksy in others, like all of this was happening to another person who happened to look like me and talk like me but was, in fact, someone different altogether. I thought I’d prepared enough that the enjoyment would slide over me like a set of nifty, longed-for, Audrey Hepburn-esque gloves.

I did not expect to find these gloves itchy. Audrey Hepburn did not itch.

Because the simple fact of the matter is that the real me spends most of her time in pyjamas. She has, on occasion, eaten peanut butter straight out of the jar. She spends days at a stretch in her apartment, fooling around with words and eating dubious things for dinner. She avoids talking on the phone like vampires avoid garlic. She loves to clown around on Twitter but is rarely so sharp in person.

And she has shaky knees in public. I thought this would go away but each time, these knees betray me. What gives? Isn’t this what you’ve longed for, Writer? Isn’t this everything you’ve wanted, and more?

The answer, of course, is yes. And no. As a writer of a certain type, especially in today’s digital age, there’s a part of me that longs to be public. I love Twitter (probably too much). I blog (probably not enough). I live for talking about books. And I love nothing so much as the chance to meet up with other writers and have provocative discussions about what writing means to ourselves and others. It’s a way of stepping beyond that apartment-sized world. It can be glamorous and exciting and also just plain fun.

But the urge to crawl away into a hole still sneaks up on me, the way those shaky knees still ambush every event I’ve ever done. It’s not always easy to talk about writing, much as I might love it. It’s hard to distill four years of writing a novel into a few choice sentences—ones that sound coherent and inspiring and make light of the fact that most of the time spent writing a novel is time spent frustrated and sobbing and/or wanting to die.

It’s hard to admit that those gloves itch all the damned time. And harder still to admit that you’ll wear the gloves anyway, even if they never get as comfortable as you had once hoped they’d be. In what universe does that make any kind of sense?

I’m convinced, on some level, that one day an astute reader is going to out me as an imposter. “You’re awkward,” they’ll say. “You’re not smart, and you’re not funny. Real authors don’t get nervous. They always know what to say. Please go back to your apartment.”

And really, who am I to argue? I write things. I don’t speak them, at least not as much. I am not David Sedaris. (I would really like to be David Sedaris.) People come to hear authors speak because they believe that authors can talk about creativity in a way that makes sense. They engage with authors at festivals because it’s magical and thrilling to see Stephen King be exactly as cool and quirky and slightly, charmingly odd as you’d imagine Stephen King to be. Expectation: met.

You don’t go to a festival to see an author shake uncontrollably and make lame jokes. Where’s the fun in that?

*

And yet, I have a book out in the world now. There’s no getting off the train. Every time I do an event—and make no mistake, I am intensely grateful for every single opportunity—I’m reminded that mental juggling is part of the gig. Most writers are intensely private on some level, but are also expected to be intensely public—especially when the time for promotion comes.

It’s a strange feeling. Sometimes I have this urge to grab the hands of random readers at events. I hate reading in public, I want to say. And I LOVE reading in public. Yesterday I wrote three words and erased five hundred and ate a can of kidney beans for lunch. Honest to God, I don’t know how my book got published at all.

But that would be weird, so I don’t do it. We don’t want weird, right? In the age of Twitter, we want witty literary luminaries all of the time. We want our writers to be as electrifying in person as they are on the page. We want them to be well-dressed and well-spoken and well-versed and well-everything. And when we have questions, we want them answered in an exact, succinct way.

Sometimes we forget that it can take years to find the right word, or that creation itself can be slippery and bizarre—fuelled by cans of kidney beans and self-doubt and the same nervousness that makes a set of knees shake together on the stage. Writing is about delving into the muck and trying to make sense out of chaos. Writing is weird. It is an inherently awkward profession, dressed up in those Audrey Hepburn gloves. And bewitched by their beauty, sometimes I forget that the itching underneath will never end. The imposter syndrome never really goes away—you just get better at ignoring it.

*

One year on from putting my first book into the world, I’ve discovered that it is possible to be both a private writer and a public author all at the same time. After all, the people who come to a reading don’t actually seeyou sobbing over that half-finished manuscript. They get to see your finished book. And thanks to the magic of time, you usually get to talk to them about it after a year or so of decompression. You can prepare for the gloves.

Writing is hard, messy work. It stands to reason, then, that talking about it (or even reading it off the page) will sometimes also be messy and hard. But as worried as I get over my shaking knees, it usually transpires that the knocking never seems as bad to the observer as it does to me. Same goes, I think, for the rest of the neuroses that inevitably spring up in anticipation of having to read and/or talk about your book in public. They’re never as bad as you think they are. Sometimes, they can even be refreshing. I am always thrilled when the authors I meet prove to be quirky and awkward in ways that I completely understand. You can be an author, and a real person too? Even in the age of Twitter? Amazing!

So three cheers, I say, to the awkwardness that lies beneath the polish. To the itchiness that lies beneath the gloves. Because ultimately, stories come to us through what is awkward and terrible and hard. Next time my knees shake at a reading, I will remember that, and be thankful.

I might lay off on the jokes, though.

And note to organizers: just to be safe, please give me a podium. I promise everything will be okay. 

Amanda Leduc visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 — full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) — along with Adam Abbas, Kate Cayley and Tom Cho. Come early, too (6:30) for Amanda’s talk, “From Couchsurfing to Cafés: The Magic of the D.I.Y. Book Tour”!

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Brockton Writers Series 07.05.13

Happy Siete de Mayo! It’s not a real holiday, but we’ll do our best to make it one on Wednesday, May 7, at full of beans Coffee House & Roastery (1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto), with readings by:

Adam Abbas, Kate Cayley, Tom Cho and Amanda Leduc!

Plus, come early — 6:30pm — for a special talk by Amanda, “From Couchsurfing to Cafés: The Magic of the D.I.Y. Book Tour”!

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:

Adam Abbas is more interested in what’s muttered after the phone call than the phone call itself. His poems can be found in various publications including The Continuist and Lantern. His first poetry book, A State, A Statue, A Statute, will be published by the Vancouver-based Steel Bananas Art Collective in Summer 2014. He lives in Toronto. Twitter: @Adam_M_Abbas.

Kate Cayley’s first collection of poetry, When This World Comes to an End, is published by Brick Books. She has also written a young adult novel, The Hangman in the Mirror, published by Annick Press. She is the artistic director of Stranger Theatre, and has co-created, directed and written eight plays with the company. She is a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre, and her play After Akhmatova was produced as part of Tarragon’s 40th anniversary season. Her new play, The Bakelite Masterpiece, will be performed at Tarragon in Fall, 2014, and her first short story collection, How You Were Born, is forthcoming from Pedlar Press.

Tom Cho‘s collection, Look Who’s Morphing, was originally published to acclaim in Australia, where it was shortlisted for multiple awards and is now in its second printing. This collection has just been published by Arsenal Pulp Press for North America and Europe. Tom’s fiction has been widely published, in such publications as The Best Australian Stories series, Asia Literary Review and The New Quarterly, and he has has performed his work at many festivals, from Singapore Writers Festival to Sydney Mardi Gras. Born and raised in Australia, he has applied for permanent residency in Canada. He has a Ph.D. in Professional Writing and is currently writing a novel about the meaning of life.

Amanda Leduc‘s essays and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Tampa Review Online, The Rumpus, ELLE Canada, Big Truths, Little Fiction, Prairie Fire, PRISM International, and other publications across Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. She was longlisted for this year’s CBC Canada Writes Short Story Contest, and shortlisted for both the 2012 PRISM International Short Fiction Contest and the 2012 TNQ Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest. Her novel, The Miracles of Ordinary Men, was published in 2013 by Toronto’s ECW Press. She has lived in B.C., England, and Scotland, and currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, where she spends too much time on the Internet and is at work on her next novel.

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