Monthly Archives: June 2019

BWS 10.07.19: Terri Favro

Terri

Terri Favro is the author of four books including “Sputnik’s Children”, a Globe & Mail 100 book, CBC Books top ten book and Quill & Quire best book, shortlisted for the Sunburst Award and optioned for the screen by EntertainmentOne. Terri also collaborates on graphic novels and likes robots, her family and wet, dirty martinis.

 

I sometimes think that I’m spending my life writing one big story. Every book, essay and short story seems to be about the same things: the Cold War, nuclear bombs, comic books, immigration/emigration, martinis, winemaking, hot rods, Italian-Canadians, Catholic mysticism, epic struggles between good and evil, and sexual obsession. Let’s throw quantum physics in there for good measure.

I often borrow from other stories and reference them in my work. The Proxy Bride is based on one of The Canterbury Tales (The Miller’s Tale) and influenced by classical Italian opera. Once Upon A Time in West Toronto is a retelling of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western “Once Upon a Time in the West”, reimagined in Toronto’s Italian community in the mid-1970s. Sputnik’s Children is based on my favourite “Star Trek” (Original Series) episode, a Harlan Ellison-scripted time travel story that takes Spock, Kirk and Bones back to Depression-era Chicago. Generation Robot: A Century of Science Fiction, Fact, and Speculation is based on my theory that our obsession with robots is tied up with our anxiety about nuclear self-destruction, and references robot stories back to 1950 and earlier.

Right now, I’m writing a sequel to Sputnik’s Children called The Sisters Sputnik. While Sputnik 1 was set in two very similar alternate realities (quantum physics!!!), Sputnik 2 will send my time travelling, comic book writing heroine not only to an alternate timeline (Singularity Savings Time, where vicious time travelling Nazis are trying to change the course of history) but to the past –– 1956, a year before the Sputnik spy satellite was launched. (I forgot to mention that I’m also obsessed with creating alternate histories that seem very close to what we call ‘reality’.)

Here’s a glimpse of Debbie trying to survive the fashion dictates in 1956 as inflicted on her by a sadistic housekeeper for the evil Dr. Time. As much of a garbage fire the world of 2019 seems to be, at least we aren’t expected to wear rubber girdles or douche with Lysol anymore.

 

From “The Sisters Sputnik” (work in progress):

When I first arrived at Ransomville House, I didn’t know how to fasten a corset hook or pull on a panty girdle or thumb the top of a nylon stocking into a garter snap. Okay, it’s not rocket science, but you can’t just insert your body into these self-inflicted mid-twentieth-century torture devices for the first time without help.

On my first day, the housekeeper, Miss Sexton, gave me a scalding bath, scrubbed my hair with Halo shampoo, patted me dry and dusted me with so much talcum powder that I looked like a naked, damp ghost. She explained that this was to provide enough traction for the rubber girdle to glide over my fleshy bits without getting stuck halfway up my thighs. Sexton claims to have had lots of experience teaching other girls I about the painful lengths you have to go for an hourglass shape.

I joked that she was the Nurse Ratchet of fashion, but of course she didn’t know what I was talking about. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest won’t be published until 1962. Unfortunately the Nurse Ratchet reference was prophetic. Sexton’s fashion sense is only surpassed by her sadism.

All I can say is, fuck Christian Dior and his New Look. Breasts like miniature ballistic missiles. Twenty-four inch waist. You not only have to wear a girdle under those nipped-in cocktail dresses, but under skintight capris and ski pants too. Even though I’m reasonably slim by twenty-first century standards, for the nineteen-fifties I’m a tank, my proportions all wrong for clothing designed for women whose growth was stunted by the Depression and wartime rationing. Armholes are too high, waists are too small, backs too narrow. Even hats don’t fit. I’m a hulking Amazon in a world of malnourished sprites. Sexton believes the best way to solve this problem is with an industrial strength, all-rubber girdle and long-line balconet bra with a little empty puff of air space over each nipple (to allow your breasts to breathe, dear, Sexton explained). Then comes the nylon slip (never allowed to peek out from under the hem of your dress), followed by a petticoat or crinoline. Sexton prefers crinolines because they’re more uncomfortable. Her philosophy is that womanhood equals suffering so I might as well get used to it. And oh, did I mention the sweat guards? Little cotton pads you pin inside your blouse or sweater, under your armpits, because the chemical giants of the nineteen-fifties (DuPont, Hooker and Cyanamid, whose nearby smokestacks stain the air a sickly shade of brownish-yellow) haven’t yet mastered the science of stopping us from sweating altogether. Instead, you mask your ‘B.O.’ (Sexton’s word) with deodorant or cologne before encasing your body in enough non-breathable synthetics so that you’re basically living in your own flop sweat, 24/7.

The fifties is a sweaty decade. Also, a tedious one, if you’re a woman interested in doing anything besides dressing, grooming and abusing yourself with chemicals.

Every night before bed, Sexton spritzes my hair with a semen-like liquid called ‘setting lotion’ and does it up in curlers, covering the whole structure with a chiffon turban. Very Bride of Frankenstein. I have to sleep sitting up on a mountain of pillows so the tiny plastic teeth don’t bite into my scalp. In the morning, she bustles into my room before breakfast to tug out the rollers and brush out the curls, setting everything in place with a mist of Spray Net. The hairspray goes down my throat and up my nose, giving me chronic sinusitis and releasing a fog of Chlorofluorocarbons into the air:

“That stuff is killing the planet, and me,” I cough, even though I know it’ll still be a good forty years before anyone sounds the alarm about CFCs in aerosol sprays destroying the ozone layer.

Sexton sighs: she’s getting used to what she calls my kooky warnings. “Is that what happened to your planet? I’m sure ours will be just fine.”

Periods are managed with giant sanitary napkins the size and texture of loaves of Wonderbread, belted between my legs. I’ve asked for tampons –– I know they exist in this decade, having seen the weirdly sensuous ads for them in Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal. Sexton is aghast at my request, whispering that only married women are allowed to use them or even buy them.

After my period, I’m expected to cleanse myself with something called a ‘douche’. I don’t know what that means until Sexton appears with a rubber bag, hose and bottle of Lysol. She explains that I am supposed to dilute the disinfectant with warm water and pump it up my vagina to freshen myself. I flatly refuse and go to luncheon.

The next thing I remember is I waking up to find myself naked from the waist down and tied hand and foot to the bedstead with Sexton calmly feeding the hose into me. (A non-lethal overdose of sleeping pills in my egg salad sandwich knocked me out long enough for her to immobilize and violate me.)  For your own good dear, Sexton murmurs as the stinging liquid pours out of me onto a bath towel. I sob and curse. I can taste as well as smell the Lysol as it burns its way through me.

Cleansed but still groggy, I’m untied, powdered and forced back into my girdle, garters, stockings, wasp-waisted dress and Cuban heeled pumps.

Only then does Miss Sexton judge me ready for cocktail hour with Dr. Time.

 

Terri Favro visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Teddy Syrette, Jenny Yuen, SK Dyment, and guest speaker Leah Bobet who will be exploring word building with a focus on character in her talk, “Worlds are Made of People.”

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BWS 10.07.19: Jenny Yuen

Jenny_Yuen

Jenny Yuen is an award-winning news reporter, who covers a wide variety of local, provincial and national stories, and has written for the Toronto Sun, Now Magazine, and CBC Radio. She is a proud poly partner. She lives in Toronto with her family.

 

While polygamy has been characterized as patriarchal, polyamory – fostering multiple consensual relationships simultaneously – has been known to be feminist. Polyamorous author Jenny Yuen, who has two partners, was quoted in Slutever recently on how polyamory is on the rise in North America and how talking about having multiple loving relations more openly can reduce misconceptions, stigma, and help it gain wider societal acceptance.

This New Book Offers a Fresh Take on Polyamory

Jenny Yuen’s book Polyamorous: Living and Loving More approaches the subject of polyamory with an open-mind, extensive research, and the first-hand experience to back it all up. Troy Michael Bordun talks to the author about jealousy, internet communities, and trust.

 I lived my young adulthood in downtown Toronto. It was the early to mid-2000s and I had friends with diverse backgrounds and interests across the city; yet, when it came to sex and romance, we only knew two possibilities: dating or promiscuity and (serial) monogamy. Then in 2006, the Oxford English Dictionary added the word “polyamory,” and its usage increased as the years went on. In 2017, for example, the fourth most popular Google search related to relationships was “What is a poly relationship?” and “What is an open relationship?” came in sixth. For many Canadians and Americans today, polyamory is simply part of our everyday lives.

In her first book, Polyamorous: Living and Loving More (2018, Dundurn Press), Toronto author and journalist Jenny Yuen shares the stories of dozens of polyamorous Canadians. According to a 2012 study, 4-5% of the country’s population, much like its neighbour to the South, is in some kind of consensual non-monogamous arrangement. Yuen provides the space for some of these folks to discuss their habits, preferences, and struggles. In a highly engaging style, the author articulates just how relevant alternatives to monogamy have become.

What initially struck me while reading Yuen’s book was the sheer quantity of responses from poly Canadians (I’ll follow the book’s usage of “poly” instead of “polyam” or “polya”). During my conversation with the author in October 2018, she mentioned that her own choice to pursue polyamory assisted her in generating so many productive interviews. Like Yuen herself, many are open to talking about their personal lives in the interest of normalizing alternatives to monogamy. Indeed, the first two chapters of the book exclusively detail Yuen’s discovery of and experiences with polyamory. The author also revealed that she offered her participants the opportunity to use just their first name or a pseudonym, because “not everyone has the privilege of being ‘out.’’’

Yuen is clear about the poly privilege. There isn’t a readily available poly starter kit but a few things do help people get going and maintain their partnerships, e.g., financial security, urban living, and a progressive family and community. Many polyamorists use their financial security in order to maintain multiple households, go to expensive kink events, plan a poly vacation with a poly travel agent (yes, this exists), or visit partners in faraway cites – flying across the country and staying in hotels isn’t cheap. Yet Yuen also describes how Facebook has been a vital tool for more local, community-oriented poly hangouts. Groups like Toronto Non-Monogamous BIPOC and Poly Role Models (Philadelphia) try to make events – and thus the lifestyle itself – more accessible. But as rewarding as an online community can be, it remains just that – it’s no substitute for meeting real people.

Further, although the urban lifestyle is preferable for the polyamorist (larger dating pool, bigger community, more events), Yuen ensures that her book highlights rural voices alongside urban ones.

Individuals in rural parts of the country can find ways to connect online and, if fate will allow it, arrangements can be made for a meeting. Amber, a woman who appears in Yuen’s book, was living on a remote island in British Columbia when she found the Vanpoly (Vancouver) group online. There, she met a man and, after a year or two, moved in with him, his wife, her boyfriend, and another housemate who became Amber’s boyfriend too. Now she splits her time between the island and the city. As Yuen writes, with the invention of the internet, “Polyamory suddenly became accessible with one click” for both rural and urban folks. Whether people want to learn more about it or find people to connect with, online access has proved invaluable.

But even with an internet connection, people like Cloud Edwards – a 28-year-old from Nelson, British Columbia (some 800 kilometers from Vancouver) – can still feel isolated. Edwards describes feeling rejected in his small town as most women didn’t want anything to do with a poly man and his poly wife. Polyamorous men often struggle, Yuen tells me, as men “may be the ones who instigate opening up their relationship (if they are in an existing one), but then may find their girlfriend/wife/partner finding their own partner(s) more easily and quickly. And that can lead to jealousy and other problems.” (Of course, this could happen to women in heterosexual relationships, or women and men in same-sex relationships, but Yuen finds that this pattern of struggling hetero men in poly relationships is relatively common.)

Indeed, navigating jealousy is, unsurprisingly, a considerable stumbling block for poly individuals. While Yuen only dedicates one chapter to the subject, navigating, negotiating, and overcoming jealous feelings is a thematic current that runs throughout her study. Rather than shame or condemn the negative feeling, Yuen grants her interviewees the opportunity to examine jealousy and describe ways they’ve been able to overcome it. The author indirectly offers relationship advice here: reading about all these poly folks, we learn that emotional epiphanies, working through it one day at a time, and poly counselling are just some of the options available for those who want to improve a relationship. On starting a poly life, Dr. Oren Amitay perhaps puts it best: “get ready to feel insecure and find ways to handle that.”

In addition to internal pressures within relationships, poly folks are also subjected to stigma and scrutiny from friends, family, co-workers, and the law. Yuen kindly offers her own experiences here. With a British husband, she wondered whether immigration officials would dig into her private life, and further, expressed her concern over whether she and her husband would “be persecuted” because they “chose to structure [their] relationship(s) differently than societal norms.” Yuen notes that her polycule (a romantic network of three or more individuals) consulted judges, criminal and family lawyers to ensure they weren’t breaking any laws, especially regarding the ambiguities around commitment ceremonies and “sanctioning events.” In a particularly insightful chapter, Yuen provides a history of polyamory and the law – an excellent resource for poly folks who want to know more about the risks involved when forming a polycule (in the end, the law doesn’t have too much to say about it or it doesn’t want to bother to enforce existing legislation – in short, polyamory isn’t criminal).

For the most part, Yuen says, those around her and her partners have been accepting of her lifestyle. However, Cory and Kendra from Whitehorse, Yukon, haven’t been so lucky. Yuen dedicates an entire chapter of the book to their story. “We [Kendra and I] had death threats,” Cory reveals. “Literally, I’ve had people tell me they were going to shoot me.” Eventually they fled the North, but these negative experiences hung over their lives like a dark cloud, and they suffered hardships (mental illness, geographical displacement) and consistent relationship problems (break-ups, trust issues).

Cory’s, Kendra’s, and other interviewees’ honesty make Polyamorous what it is: a true to life account of the diversity of sexual and romantic formations. Yuen doesn’t pull any punches, especially when it comes to women’s experiences in poly relationships. As Elisabeth Sheff points out in her 2006 study of poly men, polyamorous relationships still sometimes reproduce typical power relations and gender hierarchies. Yuen and her interviewees note poly trends such as unicorn hunting (a hetero couple searching for a bi-woman) and the one-penis-policy (hetero couple arrangement in which the woman can have other partners as long as they’re not male) as evidence of ongoing sexist behavior. Yuen tells me, “Women who identify as solo poly tend to feel a lot of pressure… because as the single woman coming into a triad, they can sometimes feel like it’s ‘two against one’ when couple privilege comes into play.” In the book, she provides the example of S.J, a woman often sought out as by couples asking her to be their unicorn. According to S.J., unicorn hunters often reproduce partner hierarchies and “ninety percent of the women were not even bi; they’re just trying to please their husbands.” Moreover, after hooking up with a couple, she was twice asked to babysit their children. This kind of treatment suggests that whoever doesn’t respect the monogamous institutions like marriage – in this case, S.J., who has chosen to remain childless – becomes expendable. Yuen concludes, “when everyone in a polycule isn’t treated with respect and honesty, then things go downhill pretty quickly.”

Yuen didn’t aim to write a poly guidebook, nor does she claim to be an expert. She is relatively new to the poly world, but has nevertheless provided an account that touches upon so many key themes and topics in poly communities. Tackling subjects like age, class, marginalized identities (the brief look at Indigenous polyamory is fascinating and important), and poly families, Yuen’s Polyamorous is a timely, necessary book for 2018 and for the future of poly people and relationships. The book’s strength lies in its ability to normalize the diversity of relationships and relationship philosophies.

I closed my interview with Yuen with an inquiry into the future of polyamory. She simply hopes for less stigma, and, in turn, greater acceptance. Yuen continues, “I think everyone should be able to choose who they love and how many they can love without fear of retribution, of losing their job or their children, and without a person invalidating their life choices. Hopefully, with more positive, less sensationalized media coverage, a willingness from poly communities to talk about ‘how it all works’ and dispelling misconceptions, people can better understand why others wish to practice it.” Polyamorous is a valuable step in that direction.

 

Click here to read more on how polyamory can allow women to set their own boundaries and to choose whom and how many they wish to love without adhering to societal norms. 

 

Jenny Yuen visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Teddy Syrette, Terri Favro, SK Dyment, and guest speaker Leah Bobet who will be exploring word building with a focus on character in her talk, “Worlds are Made of People.”

 

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BWS 10.07.19: Teddy Syrette

PIKE-9695

Teddy Syrette (Ozhawa Anung Kwe/Yellow Star Woman) is a 2-Spirit Anishnaabe queerdo from Rankin Reserve of Batchewana First Nation. Their short stories and poems have been published in various blog posts, anthologies and washroom stalls. Teddy currently lives in Toronto, but travels around Ontario and Turtle Island as a storyteller, artists and advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ folks. Teddy’s background in social work, theatre and bingo. They enjoy poetry (theirs), pugs (others) and polyamory.

Ahead of their appearance on July 10, Teddy shares a deeply personal essay on living with addiction, depression, and mental health.

 

Asking for help with addiction can feel shameful and make you question the value of your personhood. Add on the complexity of having ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ and you could feel very insignificant. That is how I feel. Not most times, but many times I feel inadequate. My social media presence can make it seem that on the surface I am, okay. But deep down I’m not. I haven’t been in a while. These feelings haven’t changed since I was a child. As a teenager, I denounced any form of prescribed antidepressants. I didn’t like the way they made feel. Instead of feeling all the feelings all at once, I was left feeling nothing.

Some days I feel nothing. Not the breeze creeping into the room I have sublet, in Toronto’s busy Annex area. I can barely feel the warmth of the sunshine as I sit in the park with a buddy. Everything even tastes bitter. The joy of eating the foods I love and that bring me comfort now taste muted. As a foodie, I should feel more alarmed. But I am not. My brain is coming out of the fog. That’s how it feels. I feel relieved to be out of the darkness that clouds me often. But now I am left with reflecting of my actions and inactions of this recent depressive episode.

This blog is very personal. But mental health and mental illness is personal. Our mental well-being is easier managed by others. Not me. I do my best to cope without a pill. But as someone who has lived with mental illness for almost 18 years, I am becoming open to the idea of more assistance with managing my emotional and mental parts of myself. The one thing that is helpful, is talking to loved ones and friends about how I am feeling. What causes me to be depressed and what helps me clear the fog.

There are folks who don’t understand the daily struggle of living with depression. Some days are better than others. Some days are better, but spent on recovering from the fog. When the good days are really good days, I do my best to spend them doing what I enjoy doing. And not just doing what helps me cope through depressive episodes.

I miss deadlines and don’t respond back to messages. I’m rarely on time and know that I’m not organized. I also don’t ask for help and would rather just crash and burn. That isn’t helpful and I’m aware of it. It is a tug of war, deciding if how I cope is harm reduction or enablism. Substitution of behaviours and avoidance are common themes in my makeup. But if I can account for the misgivings of my actions, why do I continue to make mistakes? Once you acknowledge a cycle of violence or harm, one should do their best to correct or stop it. Sometimes I just watch my situation get worse, like a fire, slowly burning away anything that it touches.

Taking the steps that are needed to get back to feeling worthy is slow and stumbly. Remembering what you do for work and how you get work and how you get to work becomes evident. People waiting to hear back from you are still people. Folks waiting to hear from you are family members, friends, clients and helpers. Don’t take them for granted. They very important people. Ask them for help. Apologize to them. Apologize to yourself and make a plan now, before the fog rolls back in.

Recovery is difficult. But working towards those goals can be so beneficial. They can be life saving. I apologize to those who don’t appreciate this blog. But for those who are also struggling, I feel you. I know how alone and isolating it is when we feel trapped in our mind. Please know that there are others out there who want to help. You just need to want it.

 

Teddy Syrette visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Jenny Yuen, Terri Favro, SK Dyment, and guest speaker Leah Bobet who will be exploring the topic, “Worlds are Made of People.”

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Brockton Writers Series 10.07.19

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Teddy Syrette
Jenny Yuen
Terri Favro
SK Dyment

with special guest speaker

Leah Bobet

Glad Day Bookshop

499 Church Street, Toronto

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

ACCESSIBILITY INFO
The venue is accessible. Please refrain from wearing scents.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

OAC_REVISED_NEWCOLOURS_1805c

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

 

GUEST SPEAKER

“Worlds are Made of People”

 

Leah Bobet -- Headshot

Leah Bobet‘s most recent novel, An Inheritance of Ashes, won the Sunburst, Copper Cylinder, and Prix Aurora Awards; her short fiction appears in multiple Year’s Best anthologies. She lives in Toronto, where she picks urban apple trees, builds civic engagement spaces, and pickles basically everything. Visit her at www.leahbobet.com.

 

READERS

PIKE-9695

Teddy Syrette (Ozhawa Anung Kwe/Yellow Star Woman) is a 2-Spirit Anishnaabe queerdo from Rankin Reserve of Batchewana First Nation. Their short stories and poems have been published in various blog posts, anthologies and washroom stalls. Teddy currently lives in Toronto, but travels around Ontario and Turtle Island as a storyteller, artists and advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ folks. Teddy’s background in social work, theatre and bingo. They enjoy poetry (theirs), pugs (others) and polyamory.

 

Jenny_Yuen

Jenny Yuen is an award-winning news reporter, who covers a wide variety of local, provincial and national stories, and has written for the Toronto Sun, Now Magazine, and CBC Radio. She is a proud poly partner. She lives in Toronto with her family.

 

 

 

 

 

Terri

Terri Favro is the author of four books including  “Sputnik’s Children”, a Globe & Mail 100 book, CBC Books top ten book and Quill & Quire best book, shortlisted for the Sunburst Award and optioned for the screen by EntertainmentOne. Terri also collaborates on graphic novels and likes robots, her family and wet, dirty martinis. 

 

 

 

 

 

WriterPhotoNiceSK Dyment is a writer and visual artist. SK has an illustrated blog with The BuzzMag called Inking Quickly, and his humour and illustration work have appeared in Peace Magazine, This Magazine, Briarpatch, Open Road, The Activist, Kick It Over and Fireweed among others. Steel Animals is their debut novel.

 

 

 

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