Monthly Archives: August 2019

BWS 11.09.19: Téa Mutonji

Tea

Photo: Sandro Pehar

Born in Congo-Kinsasha, Téa Mutonji is an author, screenwriter, essayist and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Walrus, Room Magazine, Joyland, and The Puritan. Her debut collection, Shut Up You’re Pretty (Spring, 2019) is the first title published under Vivek Shraya’s imprint, VS. Books. She writes, and gets lost in Toronto.

 

I relied on a lot of auditive and visual thinking when writing Shut Up You’re Pretty. I picture Loli and especially Jolie, as these unhinged, totally fearless, crazy haired girls walking down the street to something punk rock but also soul. This image was so strong I feel it stayed with me throughout the creation process. And of course, I listened to so much music to keep me entertained while writing. Loli goes on quite the journey. If this collection could be anything else, it would be a movie. If this collection could be anything else, it would be a musical. It’s a good thing this collection is a collection, because it means that it’s free—of form, of decisions, free to move and sing if it wants too. I have a feeling that if given the chance, Loli would do it all over again. I hope this soundtrack guides you in feeling Loli’s feelings every step of the way. I hope you check it out after reading a particular story. I hope it excites you, cares for you. Most of these songs have some serious throwback vibes, and SZA’s Ctrl being a dominant voice for Loli. It’s light, it’s sometimes sad. It’s inviting you to dance.

 

THE SOUNDTRACK TO LOLI’S LIFE

Tits for Cigs: Cherry Bomb, The Runaways

“Hello Daddy, Hello mom, I’m your chch-cherry bomb!”

The feel of this song reminds me of Loli and Jolie’s spirit. Life, in every respect, is good and cruising. They’re vibrant, and rebellious. I like the chaos and background nose in Cherry Bomb. It’s a great kickoff to the collection, offers just enough drama and teenage logic.

Parchment Paper: Touch-a touch-a touch me, Susan Sarandon

“Thrill me chill me fulfill me, creature of the night”

Oh, Loli has just discovered masturbation! However odd and weird it was, let’s put that aside for a second. She’s now exploring with a toothbrush, a brush, anything that look phallic. I love the carefree, light, and energy in this song. It’s an accurate mood distinguisher for Loli’s beating heart.

The Event: She Works Hard for The Money, Donna Summer

“She works hard for her money, so you better treat her right!”

Loli and Jolie are out there living and striving. They’re enjoying this sense of freedom that comes with the nearing of summer vacation. The spring heat at its finest. The music of their lives is still pretty high, pretty dance heavy, focusing their energy entirely on their bodies and their willingness to exercise it.

Down The Lakeshore: Cold Little Heart, Michael Kiwanuka

“It tears me apart. Did you ever fight it? All the pain, so much power, running through my veins.”

The cool, whispery, can-hear-the-ocean-speaking vocals of this song by Michael Kiwanuka is perfect. You have a father figure who is stuck in the past, who puts bandages on open wounds before disinfecting them first. I especially like the Outro: “Maybe this time, I can go far, but thinking about where I’ve been, ain’t helping me start.” Verbatim, thoughts straight from a broken father’s mouth.

If Not Happiness: Normal Girl, SZA

“And don’t you happiness is not a place, it’s a road to take and who you choose to walk it with.” Wise words from SZA. The moment Jolitta realized for herself that happiness wasn’t a place, and not necessarily a state of mind, but instead, the journey we take. And Jolietta, at fourteen years old, decides to skip town and take the journey. This is where we leave her. This is all we know so far.

This Is Only Temporary: I Heard Em’ Say, Kanye West

“They say people in your life are seasons and anything that happen is for a reason.” This Kanye West song, when Kanye had real shit to say, tracks for Galloway. This song talks about temporarily, it takes about hearing the nose and choosing to live your life anyways. It talks about survival, it talks about community, it takes about bringing people in, and keeping them there.

Phyllis Green: Pretty Little Birds, SZA

“You are but a phoenix among feathers, you’re broken by the waves among the sea [etc]. Pretty birds, you hit the window a few times.”

I imagine Loli singing this love note to Phyllis Green. I imagine, in her inability to connect with Phyllis, in her uncomfortableness and severe insecurities, she sees a lot of herself in Phyllis and hopes for the both of them that, “when morning comes, if morning comes, I hope you’re still mine.” But I think, instead of mine, Loli mines, “I hope you’re still yours.”

Ten Year Reunion: Place Des Grandes Hommes, Patrick Bruel

“On s’etait dit rendez-vous dans 10 ans, même jour, même heure, mêmes pommes.” There’s a line from this song directly in this story. It’s about the promise of a future. It’s about the promise of love and commiting to that promise.

Theresa’s Getting Married: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

The friendship between Theresa is special in so many ways. Notably, they seem to communicate without saying much. A lot of their love is felt stubly. I love the chemistry from this song. It’s a feel good song. And the message that it speaks, that together, we can do anything, it really resonates with me.

The Boy From My Youth: After Laughter, Wendy Rene

“When you’re in love, you’re happy.” This story is kind of interesting. So much happens, and yet, so little action. Loli is learning about her immediate needs. She’s learning about her desires. This is where the music and overall feel of the book start to shift. The light and carelessness of Loli is starting to fade.

The Common Room: All the Things She Said, t.A.T.u.

“I’m in serious shit, I feel totally lost, if I’m asking for help, it’s only because, being with you has opened my eyes, could I ever believe such a perfect surprise?” This song is such a queer girl anthem. Loli doesn’t address her sexuality in words. Mostly because she’s been experimenting with both girls and boys at such a young age, it never seemed necessary to make a deal out of it. But she meets Olivia and her life is morphing into something new. Olivia is feeding her in ways that Jolie couldn’t.

Men, Tricks and Money: Lady Marmalade, LaBelle

Voulez-vous couches avec moi?” What about the stories of sex workers who love their lives, their freedom and their finance? Loli has no shame, no trouble, no fear.

The Waitress: Everybody Hurts, R.E.M.

“When the day is long and the night is yours alone, when you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life, well hang on.”

At this stage in her life, Loli is recognizing her own depression, her struggle with mental wellness, though, still has no words for it. Instead, she watches as the world attempts to stand on its own feet.

Shut Up You’re Pretty: Anything SZA

This is the most difficult story to score. Really, I think this one story is musicless. There isn’t any song to accompany the reality of this story. There isn’t anything at all.

Women Talking: Survivor, Destiny’s Child

“Thought that I would self-destruct but I’m still here.”

This story ends before it begins. What you have is two women coming together to offer each other unsolicited support. And they leave this interaction better for it.

Old Fashioned: Weekend, SZA

My man is my man is your man, Her, this her man too, My man is my man is your man
Her, that’s her man, Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I just keep him satisfied through the weekend, You’re like 9 to 5, I’m the weekend” I mean, verbatim, the song lyrics from SZA’s weekend is word for word this story unfolding. Add a dash of bourbon and you have a perfect merger. An big alternative to this would have been Bottle or Me by Dee Dee Sharp. That’s another fabulous song for Loli.

Sober Party: Sober & Sober II, Lorde

“Sometimes I feel like, my only friend is the city I live in, the city of angels.”

Okay, Loli is hitting rock bottom but also picking herself right back up. I love the coolness of this song. It’s smooths but picks up for the climatic chorus that really reminds me of Loli’s emotional state in this story. She’s looking for herself. She’s looking for herself in other women.

Tilapia Fish: Fast Car, Tracy Chapman

Anyplace is better, starting from zero got nothing to lose, maybe we’ll make something, but me myself I got nothing to proveI had a really difficult time picking a song for Tilapia Fish. I went with Tracy Chapman Fast Car. Loli’s coming home again. She’s coming home to be with her mother and to be with herself. I think this song can be applied over and over again, throughout the entire collection. Loli wants a fast car. But so does Jolie. So does Olivia.

 

Téa Mutonji visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Catherine Hernandez, Anubha Mehta, Charlene Challenger, and guest speaker Rosamund Small who gives us “Notes on Beautiful Collaboration in Playwriting” or “I Wrote This, Please Make It Alive and Ephemeral (But Also Do It Perfectly and Exactly How I Imagined It Every Single Time). Playwrights are simultaneously the most and least important element of the theatre. They may be the loudest voice in the rehearsal hall, or dead for five hundred years before auditions even begin. 

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BWS 11.09.19: Anubha Mehta

1. Anubha Mehta

Anubha Mehta is a Canadian writer, educator, and artist who was born in India. With a doctorate in Political Science and over two decades of Canadian public service experience, Anubha has been awarded for innovative program planning and working with diverse Canadian communities. Anubha has always balanced academics and public service with art and has been a classical dancer, theatre-actor, painter and poet. Her publication, The Politics of Nation Building and Art Patronage (2012), was a culmination of years of her research in the late 1990s.

Anubha’s debut novel Peacock in the Snow, was launched by Inanna Publications on September 28, 2018 in Toronto. It was selected for sponsorship by City of Toronto Arts Council- IFOA’s Toronto Lit Up. On October 20, 2018, the Toronto International Festival of Authors, showcased and spotlighted Anubha in a ‘Launch of Launches’ in a packed event to a community of readers, patrons, writers and authors. Peacock in the Snow was declared as one of the most anticipated books to read for Fall 2018 by the 49th Shelf. Visit her website for more information.

 

Ahead of her appearance on September 11, Anubha tells us about her debut novel, Peacock in the Snow.

This is a tale of a seamless, adventurous journey of a young woman across continents, cultures, and generations, to find a love that is so improbable and to uncover a secret that sets her free. It is about the tireless capacity of the human spirit to hope, strive and succeed despite impossible obstacles.

This is a story of shy and naïve Maya and how her perfect life with her new husband Veer is thrown into complete disarray when she accidentally stumbles on an ancient family secret. What begins as unwelcome behaviour by Veer’s family soon turns into something sinister. Trapped within the dark walls of her married mansion, the secret begins to haunt Maya and draw a wedge with Veer. To escape the malicious spirits lingering in the house, Maya and Veer migrate to a distant land and start rebuilding their life amongst adventure and hardship. Not knowing that the ghosts of their past have followed them, in a race against time, Maya is put to a final test. Armed with conviction and courage, she sets out to face the dark forces that lie await.

Will Maya ever be free of a dark past? Will she be able to survive so far away from home? Will her marriage stand the test of time, displacement, and hardship in a new country?

Peacock in the Snow is a story of belief, vengeance, and forgiveness. It is a story of optimism rooted in the imperfections of life. Maya’s hope makes her resilient and her courage leads to her redemption. The only way to overcome past wrongs is to face them, to conquer our fears and confront our inner demons.

In this book I talk about those sides of issues and isms, that fall within the shadows and silences of the noise- those aspects that are often overlooked. In Patriarchy’s forceful dominance often women get indoctrinated as its gatekeepers and vulnerable men surrender their personal lives, dreams or love in a show of allegiance to this system.

Across the globe, these issues and isms don’t change, nor are they contained within geographic boundaries. They mutate with different cultures and colours and are manifest in a diversity of context, circumstance, and behaviours according to the tolerance and norms of the place. Set in both East and West, Peacock in the snow, uses a lot of symbolism, allegories and the concept of the paranormal where the possibilities of myth and magic that exist on the fringes of reality come to life and run as arteries throughout the storyline.

 

Anubha Mehta visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Catherine Hernandez, Téa Mutonji, Charlene Challenger, and guest speaker Rosamund Small who gives us “Notes on Beautiful Collaboration in Playwriting” or “I Wrote This, Please Make It Alive and Ephemeral (But Also Do It Perfectly and Exactly How I Imagined It Every Single Time). Playwrights are simultaneously the most and least important element of the theatre. They may be the loudest voice in the rehearsal hall, or dead for five hundred years before auditions even begin. 

 

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BWS 11.09.19: Catherine Hernandez

Catherine_Hernandez

Photo: Marko Kovacevic

Catherine Hernandez is the Artistic Director of b current performing arts and the award-winning author of Scarborough (Arsenal Pulp Press). Scarborough won the 2015 Jim Wong-Chu Award, was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award, the Evergreen Forest of Reading Award, Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, the Trillium Book Award, and longlisted for Canada Reads 2018. It made the “Best of 2017” lists for the Globe and Mail, National Post, Quill and Quire, and CBC Books. Scarborough will be adapted into a film by Compy Films, Reel Asian Film Festival and Telefilm, with Catherine authoring the screenplay. She is currently working on her second and third books, Crosshairs and PSW, both forthcoming from HarperCollins Canada.

 

Before appearing at our next event in September, Catherine shares the first chapter of her second book. “In Crosshairs, QTBIPOC folks learn to take arms against white supremacy and prepare for an uprising against a fascist regime.”

CHAPTER 1

Evan. My beautiful Evan. Here in the darkness of this hiding place, I write you these words. Without paper, without pen, I trace these words in my head, along the perimeter of your outline. Watch this sentence travel along the meat of your cheekbone. See my teeth dig into your it playfully. Watch these words ball into your hand along with a fistful of bedsheet, which you pull over us to create a tent. I imagine your voice now, lying across from me, improvising a silly song about the smallness of my ears. Ironically, you sing it half in tune, half out of tune.

“Maybe you’re the one with the small ears,” I suggest, and you scrunch your face in embarrassment. You are talented at many things, but music isn’t one of them. Sometimes the image of you is clear, right down to the curl of your eyelashes. Sometimes, especially when I am hungry, I recall the shape of your smile and nothing more. Watch these phrases ink across an imaginary page, a Whisper Letter, folded twice, placed in an envelope and mailed to wherever you may be. I will never forget your name, Evan. And I pray you will never forget mine.

If by some miracle my whispered words reach you, I want you to know that I am safe at 72 Homewood Avenue where Liv has hidden me in her basement.

No room in Toronto is ever used in the way it was originally intended. That’s what happens in a city always trying to reinvent itself. Like it has an itch to leave. Like it has a commitment problem. This place was meant to be a cold cellar. A place where, before the invention of refrigeration, the woman of the house would have likely stored things like butter or eggs. That’s why even in the heat of the summer, the heat of this hellish summer, I feel like I am swimming in the cold breath of ghosts. I am wearing all the clothes I ran away in. Five layers, which you told me to wear. There is no finding me. At least I hope so.

To ensure that I am hidden, I have set up my bed beside Liv’s furnace. My bed consists of two layers of cardboard boxes cut to fit in the corner of space behind the humming engine, and a pile of Liv’s old winter coats, which I use as blankets and a pillow. The idea is, if I need to leave again and in a hurry, what remains behind won’t resemble a hideout for me: a Queer Femme Jamaican Filipino man. Anne Frank, minus the diary.

It is here where I await news, where I hope for your arrival, where I wait for Liv to feed me or to tell me it’s time to run again. I am unsure of exactly how long I have been here as counting days is its own form of torture. Instead, I understand the passing of time by watching the moon’s cycle from the basement window. Maybe you are doing the same. Lunar crescents have grown fat then thin across the night sky almost six times. And at the swelling of every moon, Liv has replenished my supplies. It is through this same basement window, that I know I have been here long enough to have watched a racoon give birth, pushing those puppies out, one at a time, in the space between the spider web-stained glass and the corrugated metal framing. Long enough to watch them grow too large for the cubby hole. Long enough to watch the mama bite the collars of each of her whimpering pups and bring them to the surface of the world, high above me.

In the dead of winter, under the fingernail-width-light of a waxing moon, I jogged in place to keep my limbs from feeling wooden and numb. In the spring, when the floodings began, I would stand in ankle-deep filthy water. Under a new moon, with flashes of lightning as my only guide in the darkness, I filled buckets with floodwater and passed them to Liv through the hatch to pour down the kitchen drain. Since the summer has returned, and the moon is pregnant-round, I am thankful the musty smell of mould has dissipated a bit.

I can see the sky peeking through the opening of the basement window like a half-circle picture-perfect blue. I’m not sure what is better: to look outside the window and long for sunlight or to lie on my dark makeshift bed, close my eyes and dream of bicycling with you through the city, fast and free.

Long ago, when I first arrived, I kept to my cardboard bed and wept, seeing the basement as my prison, my tomb while the Renovation unfolded at ground level. Then, as time passed, as the moon scratched a wound across the sky, I began to inch my way about the concrete to witness the untold history of the home with my curious hands and squinting eyes. At the opposite end of the basement where a broken stove sits, just beyond the reach of its power cord’s coil, is a washroom rough-in. Three unfinished pipes stand neck-deep in the solid concrete. I picture a couple in the early 2000s renovating the basement as a separate apartment, then halting their construction as the stock market crashes. In the adjacent corner stands a dusty wooden bar and dysfunctional sink. I imagine a husband in the 1970s, wearing his paisley shirt, sneaking through its shelves in search of his favourite brand of whiskey. A mysterious series of headboards from several different time periods from several different occupants lean against the cold walls.

Every corner of this basement tells a tale and so too does every inch of my body. The landscape of every curve is a map of my traumatic experiences. Between my kneecaps are bodies of water, deep with your touch, remembered. The distance between my belly button and my throat is measured in increments of kilometres run in my escape and the sequence of events that led me here, to this nightmare lived. The canyon of my palm is where I feel everything and everyone I have lost in the last several months. And constantly echoing through these vast mountain ranges, is the sound of first screams and final goodbyes. The cartography of memory. The navigation through valleys of scars.

Tonight, the light comes. I hear the kitchen table slide roughly across the floor and then the hatch is lifted.

 

Catherine Hernandez visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Anubha Mehta, Téa Mutonji, Charlene Challenger, and guest speaker Rosamund Small who gives us “Notes on Beautiful Collaboration in Playwriting” or “I Wrote This, Please Make It Alive and Ephemeral (But Also Do It Perfectly and Exactly How I Imagined It Every Single Time). Playwrights are simultaneously the most and least important element of the theatre. They may be the loudest voice in the rehearsal hall, or dead for five hundred years before auditions even begin. 

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Brockton Writers Series 11.09.19

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Catherine Hernandez
Anubha Mehta
Téa Mutonji
Charlene Challenger

with special guest speaker

Rosamund Small

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

“Notes on Beautiful Collaboration in Playwriting”

Rosamund headshot by Liam Coo

Rosamund Small is the playwright of Sisters (Soulpepper), TomorrowLove™ (Outside the March), and Vitals (Outside the March/Theatre Passe Muraille, Dora for Outstanding New Play/Outstanding Production). She has written in many forms, and loves to experiment with dramatic fiction, verbatim, immersive/site-specific, solo, and anything in between. She collaborates on dance/theatre work with choreographer Robert Binet (their work Orpheus Alive premieres November 2019 at the National Ballet of Canada). Rosamund is a Jr Story Editor of Workin’ Moms on CBC/Netflix.

READERS

Catherine_HernandezCatherine Hernandez is the Artistic Director of b current performing arts and the award-winning author of Scarborough (Arsenal Pulp Press). Scarborough won the 2015 Jim Wong-Chu Award, was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award, the Evergreen Forest of Reading Award, Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, the Trillium Book Award, and longlisted for Canada Reads 2018. It made the “Best of 2017” lists for the Globe and Mail, National Post, Quill and Quire, and CBC Books. Scarborough will be adapted into a film by Compy Films, Reel Asian Film Festival and Telefilm, with Catherine authoring the screenplay. She is currently working on her second and third books, Crosshairs and PSW, both forthcoming from HarperCollins Canada.

 

 

1. Anubha Mehta

Anubha Mehta is a Canadian writer, educator, and artist who was born in India. With a doctorate in Political Science and over two decades of Canadian public service experience, Anubha has been awarded for innovative program planning and working with diverse Canadian communities. Anubha has always balanced academics and public service
with art and has been a classical dancer, theatre-actor, painter and poet. Anubha’s publication, The Politics of Nation Building and Art Patronage (2012), was a culmination of years of her research in the late 1990s.

Anubha’s debut novel Peacock in the Snow, was launched by Inanna Publications on September 28, 2018 in Toronto. It was selected for sponsorship by City of Toronto Arts Council- IFOA’s Toronto Lit Up. On October 20, 2018, the Toronto International Festival of Authors, showcased and spotlighted Anubha in a Launch of Launches’ in a packed event to a community of readers, patrons, writers and authors. Peacock in the Snow was declared as one of the most anticipated books to read for Fall 2018 by the 49th Shelf. Visit her website for more information.

 

TeaBorn in Congo-Kinsasha, Téa Mutonji is an author, screenwriter, essayist and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Walrus, Room Magazine, Joyland, and The Puritan. Her debut collection, Shut Up You’re Pretty (Spring, 2019) is the first title published under Vivek Shraya’s imprint, VS. Books. She writes, and gets lost in Toronto.

 

Charlene Challenger - photo by Russell Challenger

Charlene Challenger is a writer and graduate of Ryerson Theatre School. Her first novel, the young adult fantasy The Voices in Between, was nominated for the 2015 Aurora Award for Best Young Adult Novel and long-listed for the 2015 Sunburst Award Young Adult Novel category. Its sequel, The Myth in Distance, was published in 2016. Her work is also featured in Stone Skin Press’s Gods, Memes and Monsters. She lives in Pickering with her family and her adorable house-wolves.

 

 

 

 

 

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