Monthly Archives: October 2016

BWS 09.11.2016: Louise Bak

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Louise Bak is the author of Syzygy (DC Books),Tulpa (Coach House Books), Gingko Kitchen (CH) and emeighty (Letters). She’s the co-host of Sex City, Toronto’s only radio show focused on intersections between sexuality and culture. Her recent poetry will be assembled in a small book with Impulse.

Follow the links below for a sampling of Louise’s poems ahead of her Nov. 9 appearance!

“Restlessness”, “Immuring” & “Whine”

“Absorptive”

Louise Bak visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 – full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (6:30pm, PWYC) – along with Pratap Reddy, Olive Senior, Bänoo Zan and a special guest talk, “Getting Past Page One: How to Make Sure a Publisher Will Read Your Manuscript”, by HarperCollins Canada Children’s and Young Adult Editor Suzanne Sutherland.

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BWS 09.11.2016: Pratap Reddy

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Pratap Reddy moved to Canada from India in 2002. An underwriter by day and a writer by night, he writes short fiction about the agonies and the angst (on occasion the ecstasies) of new immigrants. He has completed a creative writing program from the Humber School for Writers. Pratap was awarded the Best Emerging Literary Artist prize from the Mississauga Arts Council, and has received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. His short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines in Canada, the USA and India. His collection Weather Permitting and Other Stories (Guernica Editions) was published in June 2016. He is currently working on a novel, and another collection.

Ahead of his November 9 visit to BWS, Pratap shares an excerpt from “Going West”, a story in Weather Permitting, and the book’s trailer, too!

“Going West” (excerpt)

When the airplane banked, I had my first glimpse of the CN Tower, rising like an upended middle-finger. I was immigrating to Canada, and the huge butterflies in my stomach were only growing bigger.

The aircraft swooped down, and landing with a thud, raced down the runway hell for leather. As though having thought better of it, the plane slowed down and eventually came to a stop. Soon afterwards some of the passengers shot up like jack-rabbits as usual and dashed to the exit, clogging the aisles. I waited for the crush to subside before I got up from my seat and pulled out my hand luggage from the overhead rack. Dragging the bag after me, and balancing a rather capacious coat on my arm, I sidled out of the plane. I clutched the coat – the thickest I could buy in India – as if it were some sort of talisman that would protect me from Canada’s notorious cold.

I shuffled along what seemed like an endless corridor towards the immigration check. Other passengers, with tired, bored expressions, sped past me, standing on a moving walkway. Being unused to a travelator, I gave it a wide berth not wanting to break a leg on my first day in Canada.

I waited in a cavernous hall with a planeload of landed immigrants – men, women and their cranky children. When my number was called I entered a small cell. The border official took my Indian passport and the snot-green landing paper, and checked every line in them, periodically looking up to examine my face. What with 9/11 and all, I was half-expecting him to whip out a pair of handcuffs and slap them onto my wrists. But he was more interested in the ‘proof of funds’ I had brought with me. Satisfied with the loot, he said: “Welcome to Canada!”

At baggage carousel, I was seized with a paroxysm of alarm when my suitcases refused to show up on conveyor belt. When I cased the area around the carousel, much to my relief, I saw my luggage stacked safely on one side. Not having Canadian change on me, I accepted a coin – reluctantly yet thankfully – from a fellow passenger to get myself a baggage trolley.

In the lobby of Pearson International Airport, standing like lighthouse, I swept my gaze in a semicircle over the multicultural collection of faces of people waiting for their near and dear to emerge. A few of them had surgical masks tied to their faces, I noticed with concern. Praful Patel, the owner of the guesthouse I’d be staying at, had promised to receive me – for a fee, of course. There was a fair sprinkling of south Asians, but I managed to lock on to his unsure, unmasked, half-smiling face. He looked older than in the JPEG image he had sent me by email.

A few days before leaving for Canada, I had surfed the Internet searching for some sort of accommodation that wouldn’t be too expensive. Checking into a hotel was out of question. As to friends and relatives in Canada, I had none. On the web I found a not so flattering review of the Patel guesthouse. It was a pension-like set up where immigrants could avail themselves of its frugal hospitality without getting gouged. I’m not the type to give much credence to all the reviews one encounters on the net, so I booked myself a spot – I was thankful to have an inexpensive place to go to, straight from the airport.

Praful extended his hand and said, “Welcome to Canada. Did you have a pleasant journey?”

I nodded – though I wouldn’t have called travelling twenty thousand miles in 24 hours with two extended layovers and not much sleep, pleasant. I took his hand nervously. The newspapers in India were full of stories of a dreaded disease called SARS that was rampant in Canada.

Praful took control of the trolley and we walked to the parking lot. The spring evening was bright but it still had a nip to it – with a shiver running down my back, I draped my thick coat loosely over my shoulders and hugged it like a shawl. Praful who was dressed in a golf shirt and shorts, seemed impervious to the weather. Once the suitcases were stowed in the boot I went around and stood on what I thought was the passenger side. Praful too materialized on the same side.

“Sorry!” I said. “I forgot you drive on the wrong side in this country!”

“No problem. There are many things in this country which are the exact opposite of what you find in India.” He added sagely: “You’ll get used to them.”

As Praful steered the car through the enormous parking lot that seemed to be deliberately laid out as a maze, I was struck by the multiplicity of roads and flyovers snaking out of the airport, and the sheer number of automobiles swarming over them. Even though it was only dusk then, all the cars had their lights turned on. Ahead, the procession of red tail lights moved steadily as if keeping time to an unseen metronome. Back home, I was used to seeing traffic, composed of cars, buses, motorcycles, auto-rickshaws and an occasional cow or two – rushing harum-scarum along the roads.

Praful played Bollywood songs for my benefit during the twenty minute drive to his semi- detached house in Mississauga, a suburb to the west of Toronto. The Patels ran their guesthouse out of this property.

“Every Sunday they show a Hindi film on TV,” he said. “But if you have a satellite dish, there’s no limit to how many Indian films you can see! Do you like Hindi films?”

“No,” I said. I didn’t mean to offend him. In India I had watched Hollywood films in regular theatres, and enjoyed old French cinema shown at special screenings even more.

“Oh!” said Praful, and added hurriedly: “Should I switch off the music?”

“No, don’t!” I said. “I do like Hindi film music however.”

The houses on the street he lived had a uniform appearance with chocolate brown facades and lawns the size of living room carpets. Praful taxied the car close to the front door. Between the two of us, we managed to move the oversized suitcases into the lobby. When I pushed open the front door which was left unlocked, I was at once assailed by the fug of Indian cooking. I had not experienced such a powerful bouquet even in India where a billion mouths had to be fed daily.

A plump middle-aged woman, with close-cropped hair and dressed in shirt and pants, came forward and said: “I’m Mrs. Patel. Welcome to Canada.”

All the Mrs. Patels I had met hitherto had worn saris, even if wrong way round, Gujju style. Mrs Patel unwittingly delivered the first jolt of culture shock to an immigrant from India. Maybe, reading the astonishment on my face, and perhaps wanting to calm me, she said hurriedly: “I’ll make some chai for you. Sit down and relax.”

No sooner she went into the kitchen than a man came down the large wooden staircase that seemed to dominate the living room area. He was of medium height and light-skinned.

Praful introduced us: “Gahlot meet our new guest. He’s from Hyderabad.”

“Welcome to Canada,” Gahlot said without enthusiasm, and added: “I want to speak to Falguni.”

The man went into the kitchen and at once started remonstrating with Mrs. Patel. I could hear the argument over the timpani of the kitchen utensils.

“Falguni, why should I pay for the lock?”

“Because you’ve lost the key!”

“I only lost the key, not the lock!”

“Yeah, but…”

Praful said: “Come on, I’ll take you to your room.”

As we climbed up the stairs, lugging my suitcases, Praful cautioned me, using only gestures, to tread quietly. I noticed then that unlike back home, staircases and floors in Canadian homes were made of wood which made a lot of noise as you walked over them.

The room upstairs was little more than a box, and had two cots set at right angles. I could make out the spoor of the other occupant: a shirt hanging on the back of chair, a used coffee mug on a table, the odour of unwashed socks.

It was getting dark, so I reached out my hand and tried to switch on the light. I found the toggle switch already at ‘on’ position.

“Aren’t the lights working?” I asked.

Switching on the light, Praful said, “You must push it up to put on the light.”

In India the electrical switches operated in the opposite way. It was at this moment, standing awash in the yellow light of low wattage, that it dawned on me that I had left my own country for good and immigrated to a land about which I knew so very little. Within the last two hours I had been welcomed to Canada on four occasions, with varying degrees of warmth. Yet I felt a wave of homesickness rising in my innards, bitter as bile.

Pratap Reddy visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 – full of beans Coffee House & Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto (6:30pm, PWYC) – along with Louise Bak, Olive Senior, Bänoo Zan and a special guest talk, “Getting Past Page One: How to Make Sure a Publisher Will Read Your Manuscript”, by HarperCollins Canada Children’s and Young Adult Editor Suzanne Sutherland.

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Brockton Writers Series 09.11.16

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 9, 2016 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series celebrates its seventh anniversary! Join us for readings by:

Louise Bak
Pratap Reddy
Olive Senior
Bänoo Zan

and special guest speaker

Suzanne Sutherland

AT

full of beans Coffee House & Roastery

1348 Dundas St. W., Toronto

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

Accessibility Information
The venue is wheelchair accessible (no step up at door), but washroom facilities are down a flight of stairs. Street parking. Accessible by 505 Dundas streetcar (Lisgar stop). Please contact Farzana Doctor if you need to reserve a seat as the venue can get full.
Please refrain from wearing scents.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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And to the Canada Council for the Arts for travel funding!

GUEST SPEAKER

Getting Past Page One: How to Make Sure a Publisher Will Read Your Manuscript

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Suzanne Sutherland is the Children’s and YA Editor at HarperCollins Publishers, where she has worked with internationally bestselling authors such as Kenneth Oppel, Emma Donoghue, Dennis Lee and Kit Pearson. She is also the author of three novels for teens, including her most recent, Under the Dusty Moon.

READERS

1654053_10153843291505198_1497305120_nLouise Bak is the author of Syzygy (DC Books), Tulpa (Coach House Books), Gingko Kitchen (CH) and emeighty (Letters). She’s the co-host of Sex City, Toronto’s only radio show focused on intersections between sexuality and culture. Her recent poetry will be assembled in a small book with Impulse.

pratapPratap Reddy moved to Canada from India in 2002. An underwriter by day and a writer by night, he writes short fiction about the agonies and the angst (on occasion the ecstasies) of new immigrants. He has completed a creative writing program from the Humber School for Writers. Pratap was awarded the Best Emerging Literary Artist prize from the Mississauga Arts Council, and has received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. His short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines in Canada, the USA and India. His collection Weather Permitting and Other Stories (Guernica Editions) was published in June 2016. He is currently working on a novel, and another collection.

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Olive Senior is the prize-winning author of 17 books of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s literature. Her latest, The Pain Tree, is the winner of the 2016 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. She lives in Toronto but returns frequently to Jamaica where she was born. She conducts writing workshops internationally and is on the faculty of the Humber School for Writers.

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Bänoo Zan has published more than 120 poems, translations, biographies, and articles. Songs of Exile, her first poetry collection, was released in 2016; Letters to My Father, a second, is due to be published in early 2017. Bänoo is also the founder of Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night), the most diverse poetry reading and open mic series in Toronto..

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BWS Bonus Content: Farzana Doctor Interviews Daniel Perry

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Daniel Perry is the author of the short story collections Hamburger (Thistledown, 2016) and Nobody Looks That Young Here (Guernica, 2018). His fiction has been short-listed for the Carter V. Cooper Prize, and has appeared in more than 30 publications in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. the Czech Republic. Dan lives in Toronto, and on Twitter @danielperrysays, and you might also know him as BWS’s co-host and blog co-ordinator.

He recently sat down and answered some interview questions instead of asking them!

Farzana: I was interested in how you structured the collection into the three parts of Coarse, Medium and Fine. What was your inspiration behind that?

Dan: Hamburger wasn’t written with a structure in mind: the oldest story in the book was drafted in 2006, published in 2010, and when in late 2013, I sent Thistledown Press this one and 11 more published stories that didn’t fit in my other collection (Nobody Looks That Young Here), I intended them for New Leaf Editions, Thistledown’s imprint that publishes first-time authors in 64-page books. To my surprise and elation, Thistledown asked if I had enough material for a full-length collection, so I finally fixed some abhamburger-1andoned drafts and wrote some new ones, too, after which I found myself with 23 stories—one a single sentence, one nearly 40 pages long, and the rest landing somewhere between—and no idea how make more than nine years of wildly different material “flow”. In the end, I settled on length: I knew “Hamburger” had to be the first story, so my thinking was that stacking the shortest pieces up front might build some momentum for the reader. “Hamburger” ends on the image of a grinder, so I came to think of these flashes as the coarse grind, a kind of “first pass” over the material. “Medium” came to represent the medium-length pieces once I realized that the only place I could possibly put the very long, detailed, historical “Three Deaths of James Arthur Doole” was at the end of the book; it seemed to make sense to call this fullest story the finest grind.

Farzana: I savoured the microfiction, reading these really short stories the way I would poetry. I needed to pause after each, and process the feelings and thoughts that arose. One question that recurred was about the alchemy of the ending. How do you decide when and how to end stories that are so short?

Dan: Microfiction (or “flash”) is, to me, a form that deals with a moment. At the risk of over-simplifying, in a lot of these pieces the stimulus simply stops: in “Eclipse”, the cathedral bells stop ringing; or in “The Locked Out”, the main character’s done all he can think to do for the moment and he has to just sit down and wait.

Farzana: Just for fun, show us a photo of your writing space.

Dan: I contemplated cleaning up first, but that would misrepresent how it actually looks most of the time… Surly cat included…

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Farzana: I noticed that writers appear in a number of the short stories. Can you tell me about this choice and what it’s like to be a writer writing about writers?

Dan: In other interviews etc. around Hamburger, one discussion topic has been characters’ relationships to their work. For writers, “inspiration” plays such a small role compared to actually doing the writing: the crafting, the shaping, the whittling; the attempt to say exactly what you mean, to make some little thing perfect so that someone else might find it beautiful. It’s a lot less romantic than a lot of people who don’t write think it is. If I can mix metaphors, it reminds me of the proverbial sausage factory: the cliché is, “You won’t like sausage once you’ve seen how it’s made,” but who says that sausage-making isn’t interesting? I’ve always liked writers as characters and the porous fourth walls in Henry Miller’s novels or the last line of Charles Bukowski’s Post Office (“Maybe I’ll write a novel, I thought. And then I did.”). Maybe part of it is some kind of self-affirmation, some acceptance of the idea that people (yes, people like me, too!) actually try to make a living writing fiction. Myself, I’ve been lucky, in the sense that I have university degrees and a job and haven’t found myself starving in Paris or Brooklyn scrounging for any buck I could get (nor down-and-out drunk in L.A., for that matter…), but I think the writer’s labour is as interesting and valid to depict in fiction as any work that people do.

Farzana: How did you research the stories that take place outside of Canada? Do you have a favourite research/travel experience that came from writing this collection?

Dan: I have visited a lot of the places that appear in the stories, though not all of them, and certainly not in the day-to-day, neighbourhood detail of the Cleveland of “Chaser” or the Philadelphia of “Rocky Steps”. A completely factual scene I could point to would be the glimpse in “Vaporetto” at the perplexed tourist family of four in the square in Venice. I don’t claim that I could read the parents’ mind, but they just looked so lost. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to arrive at a dream destination, a can’t-miss stop on an Italian vacation, only to realize there was nothing there for your young children… so, later, I sat down and imagined it.

Farzana: Work, and the drudgery connected to it, is prominent in a number of the stories. In an interview for Pages Unbound, you shared some of your early and strange jobs which included chicken loader, gas station guard for your father, and knitting store cashier with your mother. Which past jobs most influenced this collection?

Dan: Oddly, the industry that I think appears most in the book is one I never worked in, food service. (Though I was hired to deliver pizzas once: it was minus 30 on my first day, my shitbox car wouldn’t start, and I got fired.) The service industry comes up a lot in the book, too, with museum and tour guides, nannies and landscapers as well. My interest in these kinds of jobs might come from the fact that a lot of the time, a lot us don’t consider these workers as the people they are, but merely as the conduit to the service, food, etc. that we want. I think it’s the feeling of invisibility or interchangeability that comes with so much entry-level work that influences the stories more than any specific job(s) I’ve worked. It says a lot to me that one can feel these same feelings across many jobs in many sectors.

Farzana: Just for fun, write a haiku about your current job.

Dan: Fun for whom? The last thing I’d call myself is a poet…

“Beer makes you sexy”
No. “Sexy people drink this.”
Commercial’s approved.

Farzana: In the acknowledgements, you mention a personal connection that inspired the final story in your collection, “Three Deaths of James Arthur Doole”. This got me curious about whether there are any other personal connections that were inspirations to the other stories. Care to share one?

Dan: “Be Your Own Master” was born of a terrifying dream I had about trying to get rid of a loaded gun. It went through a lot of changes before it became a proper story, but hopefully some of that base fear is still in it.

Farzana: You have another book coming out in 2018 with Guernica Editions. Tell us about that project.

Dan: Nobody Looks That Young Here is a second short story collection, though with the exception of a new story I added to it this spring, it was the first one I finished. The collection revolves around one family in small-town Southwestern Ontario and a male child’s upbringing and coming-of-age, and taken together the stories form a larger narrative kind of like a novel might.

Farzana: What are you working on now?

Dan: I’m about 20,000 words into a novella (or if it goes well: a novel) about a pretty regular guy who moves into a new apartment then starts getting nightly visits from a paranormal entity of some kind. I’ve also started mapping out a Canadian Writer Contractual Obligation Tragicomic Hockey Novel™ that I’m quite looking forward to starting.

10924159_10155119358340704_2745966143424118938_oFarzana Doctor lives in Toronto and is the author of the novels All InclusiveSix Metres of Pavement, which won the 2012 Lambda Literary Award and was short-listed for the Toronto Book Award, and Stealing Nasreen. She was named one of CBC Books’ “Ten Canadian Women Writers You Need to Read Now” and received the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Grant. You probably also know Farzana as co-founder and curator of the Brockton Writers Series.

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