Monthly Archives: October 2014

BWS 05.11.14: Carole Giangrande

CaroleGiangrandeHeadshot_Sm

Carole Giangrande is the author of seven books—two novels and a short story collection (Cormorant), two works of nonfiction (Anansi), and the award-winning novella A Gardener on the Moon (Quattro). Her new novella, Midsummer, was published this spring by Inanna.

Ahead of her Nov. 5 visit, Carole drops by the blog today with this guest post.

 

Not Your Shrinking Violet

With the release of a new book, a ticking time-bomb always lies in wait, usually in the form of a nasty review. The good news: none of those for Midsummer. The weird news: faint, bleeping signals from the primitive “Who am I?” centre of the brain—and I thought I’d chucked that kind of introspection (along with my love-beads) long ago. Looks like my inner teen has been trying to sort things out.

It’s about ethnicity. Midsummer is a novella set in New York City, on the first day of the summer of 2000, as an Italian-American family gathers with relatives visiting from Rome. They’re dining at the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center; well below is the subway tunnel dug by their immigrant ancestor.

Because of the subject matter, I’ve found myself mingling with Italian-Canadian authors and reading for audiences of the same background. As an immigrant to Canada with an distinctive Italian surname, you’d think I’d fit right in.

Not quite. The more I tuned in to the Italian-Canadian vibe, the more I realized that I wasn’t playing the same chords as the rest of the band. Most of my colleagues had either emigrated from Italy or were the children of immigrants. As a result, themes of loss and exile, struggle and belonging run through the work of Italian-Canadian writers.

This is not my world—not exactly. Apart from travel and efforts to learn the language, I have no connection at all to Italy. My grandparents immigrated to New York City as children more than a century ago. My parents, aunts and uncles spoke the Neapolitan dialect, and while I grew up appreciating Italian food and culture, Italian wasn’t taught in school. Had it been, I would have chosen a different language—Japanese, say—but I was just as happy to study French. I came to Canada for university, married and made my home here. And yes, eventually, I got around to studying Italian.

Ethnicity? I’m American. That’s the country that formed me, the identity to which I lay claim. Only the term “ethnic” pertains to minorities. So, O.K.— Italian-American, to be precise. Here’s a distinction: my Canadian friends of Italian background return to Sicily or Puglia to be nourished at their roots, while I do the same with the meandering downtown streets of Manhattan, the parks of the Bronx (where I began my life), and the leafy corners of Westchester County, the suburb where I later lived.

That said, “American” is a tricky (and sometimes overbearing) identity to claim—not your shrinking-violet next-door neighbour. I used to be an on-air person on CBC Radio, and during the show, my producer would sometimes receive irate calls about my way of pronouncing various words. “Is that—an American?” the caller would say, as if he or she had been exposed to the scratchings of a large rodent. I worried about losing my job and I worked hard to erase my accent.

I’ve since decided that whatever its flaws, I like the country I come from.

In Canada, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” ethnic slot. As an American, I get to identify myself as such, even if my last name points to a more obvious ethnicity, an ancestral country that is, for me, a vanished place. Instead I cherish the peculiar beauty of Long Island Sound, the intense vitality of Manhattan’s streets, the sharing of common history with loved ones and, yes, the freedom to let my vowels collapse into New Yorkese. Yet, I’m Italian-American—and that’s a bit different from other Americans, as I learned growing up. But that’s a story for another day.

Carole Giangrande visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 — full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) — along with IF the Poet, Sheniz Janmohamed and Zoe Whittall. Come early, too (6:30) for for Rock Your Cover Design: How to Create a Captivating Cover that Captures Your Book’s Vision, a special talk by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew, author of Circle of Stones (Dundurn, 2015).

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BWS 05.11.14: IF the Poet

IF the poet PIC (2)IF the Poet (Ian French) channels the wisdom of Spirit, the rage of the wounded and the yearning that resides in every human heart. His poems are a “shout-out to the sacredness of our days, a three-chord party jam, and a tribute to the triumph of love over fear.” IF is a member of the 2013 National Champion Toronto Slam Poetry Team and the 2014 Canadian Individual Slam Champion. By way of introduction, he sent BWS  this beautiful video! Enjoy!

IF the Poet visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 — full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) — along with Carole Giangrande, Sheniz Janmohamed and Zoe Whittall. Come early, too (6:30) for for Rock Your Cover Design: How to Create a Captivating Cover that Captures Your Book’s Vision, a special talk by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew, author of Circle of Stones (Dundurn, 2015).

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BWS 05.11.14: : Sheniz Janmohamed 

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Sheniz Janmohamed is a spoken word artist, author, artist educator and the Artistic Director of Sufi Poets Series. Her work has been featured at the TedXYouth Conference (Toronto, 2010), Indian Summer Festival (Vancouver, 2012) and the Jaipur Literature Festival (India, 2013). Sheniz has been published in a variety of journals including West Coast Line, Catamaran Literary Reader and SUFI Journal. She has published two collections of poetry: Bleeding Light (2010) and Firesmoke (2014).

Sheniz drops by the blog today to answer some questions she’s commonly asked… and asking.

“So what do you do full-time?”
Yes, Sheniz, what DO you do full-time?

Borrow books from the library, get fined for overdue books, and return them–unread.
Drink coffee and sit in front of my blank screen, and write one paragraph before surrendering to Buzzfeed.
Sit around whining about the fact that there is no work for writers, poets and arts educators in this city.
Lug myself out of bed and find myself doing everything I can possibly do without writing.
Take photos of leaves. Instagram them.
Doodle.
Sink into my seat on the GO bus, reading a back issue of a magazine I thought I’d read the minute it arrived in the mail.
Ask myself what I’m doing with my life.
Silence my phone (text me).
Think about the next book. Not write, but think. Think, think, think.
Stay up until 3 a.m. doing “research,” which undoubtedly involves an old sitcom featuring Dame Judi Dench.
Realize I have deadlines. Swear at my laptop. Write. Press send. Realize I made a grammatical mistake. Re-send.

“But writing must be easier for you, it’s what you do.”
No.

It took me a week to figure out how to write an eloquent email response to another writer.
After I published my latest blog post, I realized there was a typo. This happened five times.
I read poems I’ve written (and published) and think about how I could’ve written them differently.
Birthday cards have become my responsibility. I have to prove that I can write greetings worthy of my “writer” status.

“So what inspires you?”
Too many things to even begin to understand.

Today, it’s the dog barking outside my window.
Tomorrow, it could be the perfect cup of coffee.
Yesterday, it was the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.
Last week, it was a red leaf on the sidewalk.

“So how do you pay your bills?”
I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Speaking of which, can you lend me a twenty?

Sheniz Janmohamed visits the Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 — full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (7pm, PWYC) — along with Carole Giangrande, IF the Poet and Zoe Whittall. Come early, too (6:30) for for Rock Your Cover Design: How to Create a Captivating Cover that Captures Your Book’s Vision, a special talk by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew, author of Circle of Stones (Dundurn, 2015).

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Brockton Writers Series 05.11.14

Announcing the final Brockton Writers Series of 2014, Wednesday, November 5, at full of beans Coffee House & Roastery (1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto).

PLUS

We’ll be celebrating our fifth birthday, with lots of cake and prizes!

Featuring four outstanding readers:

Carole Giangrande, IF the Poet, Sheniz Janmohamed and Zoe Whittall!

Plus, come early — 6:30pm — for Rock Your Cover Design: How to Create a Captivating Cover that Captures Your Book’s Vision, a special talk by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew, author of Circle of Stones (Dundurn, 2015),

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

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

READER BIOS:

Carole Giangrande is the author of seven books — two novels and a short story collection (Cormorant); two works of nonfiction (Anansi), and the award-winning novella A Gardener on the Moon (Quattro). Her new novella Midsummer was published this spring by Inanna. Visit her blog and website at carolegiangrande.com.

IF (Ian French) channels the wisdom of Spirit, the rage of the wounded and the yearning that resides in every human heart. His poems are a “shout-out to the sacredness of our days, a three-chord party jam, and a tribute to the triumph of love over fear.” IF is a member of the 2013 National Champion Toronto Slam Poetry Team and the 2014 Canadian Individual Slam Champion.

Sheniz Janmohamed is a spoken word artist, author, artist educator and the Artistic Director of Sufi Poets Series. Her work has been featured at the TedXYouth Conference (Toronto, 2010), Indian Summer Festival (Vancouver, 2012) and the Jaipur Literature Festival (India, 2013). Sheniz has been published in a variety of journals including West Coast Line, Catamaran Literary Reader and SUFI Journal. She has published two collections of poetry: Bleeding Light (2010) and Firesmoke (2014). Visit her website for more details: www.shenizjanmohamed.com.

Zoe Whittall is the author of the novels Holding Still for as Long as Possible–winner of the Lambda award–and Bottle Rocket Hearts, which was named a CBC Canada Reads Top Ten Essential Read of the decade. Zoe has also written The Middle Ground, a novel for adults with low literacy skills, and three collections of poetry–The Best Ten Minutes of Your LifeThe Emily Valentine Poems and Precordial Thump. Her next novel, The Best Kind of People, is forthcoming from Anansi in 2016.

SPEAKER BIO

Suzanne Alyssa Andrew is the author of Circle of Stones, a novel (Dundurn, 2015), and successfully navigated the cover design process this summer. She frequently works with designers on multi-disciplinary project teams in digital media to produce games, apps, and co-productions for film and TV such as the award-winning interactive documentary, The Defector, and a story-based app for youth called Long Story Game. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, Taddle Creek and Broken Pencil. For fun Suzanne plays bass in an indie rock band. Find her online at suzanneandrew.com and @suzannealyssa.

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