Monthly Archives: October 2020

BWS 11.11.20: Jamie Tennant

Jamie Tennant has covered music and pop culture both locally and nationally. He is the Program Director at 93.3 CFMU FM and the host and producer of the literature program Get Lit. In 2016 he published his debut novel, The Captain of Kinnoull Hill. His new novel is tentatively scheduled for fall 2023.


In anticipation of his appearance at our next event, Jamie Tennant shares an excerpt from his forthcoming novel, tentatively titled River, Diverted.

It’s the mid 1990s, and screenwriter River Black is still Helen Delaney, a waitress in Toronto who spends most of her spare time watching horror films on VHS. Having trouble coping with her father’s death, she decides to move to Japan and reinvent herself.

*

The blurred confusion of airport concourses and unintelligible signs. The soothing voice of the Skyliner train. The baffling intensity of the three-minute walk between Ueno train stations: crowds like schools of fish, darting and twirling without a single collision; chirping traffic signals like battery-operated sparrows; low-hanging bridges against high-rising neon. Finally, the train, where I pressed my face against the window and peered into the dark.

Behind me, a salaryman in a sharp blue sharkskin suit watched me, amused; I could see his reflection in the window. His amusement would not dissuade me. I had been briefed on sixteen dozen Japanese do’s and don’ts. Don’t stick your chopsticks vertically in the rice. Don’t eat or drink while walking down the street. Don’t pass food from chopstick to chopstick! There was no rule about pressing your face against the train window. I was going to respect this culture, but I was still going to be me.

A confusing proposition, I guess, since I’d come here to become someone else.

The window vibrated in its casing, causing my top teeth to rattle against my bottom teeth. I opened my mouth to end the chattering and stared, gape-jawed, into the invisible Japanese countryside. I let a long, low “aaaaahhh” stretch its way out of my throat. The juddering motion of the window gave my voice a rapid vibrato, and I wondered what the salaryman must have thought about this strange foreign chick bleating into the night like a bewildered goat. Sometimes I did things that felt good and looked weird. Still do.

I stood up to hit the vending machine. The train seemed to make a perpendicular shift on the tracks. I felt like a surfer on an erratic wave. With surfing on my mind, I spread my arms out for balance and launched into a mostly off-key approximation of the Hawaii Five-O theme. No one in the car seemed to notice.

At the end of the car, a row of vending machines shone with the promise of so many garishly-packaged pleasures. Beer! Cigarettes! Boss Coffee! I opted for a Pocari Sweat because, I mean, it’s called Pocari Sweat. What’s a Pocari? Why does it sweat? Neither the milky translucence of the bottle nor the blue and white label provided this pertinent information.

As I hung ten down the sideways-shifting aisle, Pocari Sweat in hand, we barrelled into a tunnel. The train shook like a plane in turbulence. I shot my arms out with a short squeal and the bottle tumbled into the aisle, and rolled to the salaryman’s shiny leathered feet.

I stepped forward, embarrassed, and kneeled to retrieve my beverage.

Sumimasen.” Excuse me. A phrase I was likely to need with some frequency. The man, however, appeared to be amused, which was a relief. When people don’t find my antics amusing, they find them annoying, and I never know which way it’s going to break.

Back in my seat, I tasted the Sweat. It resembled a sports drink, but sports drinks at home are the colour of crayons and salty enough to curl your tongue into a Twizzler. They kind of bully you into thinking you’ve been refreshed. This was more subtle and did not, despite its promise, taste like the sweat of anything.

In the window’s reflection it could see the salaryman nodding off. His head lolled forward, his chin bouncing off his sternum. The way my dad used to get after the fabled seventh brandy. Used to get. Past tense. Former tense. Dead tense.

“Dead.” I said it aloud, as if to remind myself. “My dad is dead.”

“I’m sorry,” said man in the suit, who hadn’t nodded off at all.

“Thank you.” I said, genuinely moved. “Thank you so much.”

I plopped down in the empty seat across the aisle from him.

“Are you on vacation?” he asked.

“Sort of. I’ve been fascinated with Japan ever since I was a little kid,” I continued. “Godzilla movies and anime and all that. I mean, I don’t think Japan’s all marauding kaiju and Hello Kitty. I have a lot of respect for the culture. I even studied the language a little bit. And it helps that Japan is far away from Canada, in just about every way you can imagine. I need to go through something transformative right now.”

“Excellent!” The man was delighted. Other foreigners probably answered that question with a grunt and a shrug. “What does it mean, transform…forma…?”

“Transformative. Something that will change my outlook on life and help me become a new person.”

“I understand.”

“No, I bet you don’t.” I rested my right foot on my left thigh and turned towards him, my hands held out as if preparing to catch a ball. “I’m changing everything. All my life I wanted to write movies, right? But I never did it. I just sort of wandered through a boring university degree I didn’t want, and wandered into a boring job I didn’t care about. After my dad died, my sister said to me, now’s the time, go be who you want to be, so I thought, why don’t I? Do something different, start writing, and even change my name? So that’s what I did.”

I spoke as if talking to myself, which I sort of was. Honestly, half the time I’m talking out loud, a listener is optional.

“What is your new name?” he asked.

“My name is River Black,” I stuck out my hand with jokey formality. “And you, sir, are the first person in history to meet me.”

“River.” He smiled but did not take my hand. “In Japanese, River is kawa. I think people will call you Kawa-chan, if they are your friends.”

“Well, I hope they do!”

“May I call you Kawa-chan?”

“Of course you can,” I replied. “You’re my very first friend.”

Jamie Tennant visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 starting at 6:30pm alongside Joshua P’ng, Zoë S. Roy, and Larry Baer. Dina Del Bucchia, writer, podcaster, literary event host, editor, and instructor, will give her talk on, “Podcasting for Fun (And Zero Dollars”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:15.

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BWS 11.11.20: Zoë S. Roy

Zoë S. Roy is the author of three novels: Spinster KangCalls Across The PacificThe Long March Home, and a short fiction collection: Butterfly Tears, published by Inanna Publications. Her literary fiction always focuses on women’s cross-cultural experiences. Besides creative writing, Zoë has also created several Wikipedia pages.

My Protagonists

I write literary fiction. My most recent novel is Spinster Kang. If you’re interested in it, you could take a look at a book trailer on YouTube. If you’d like to know what inspired me to create the protagonist, you could read the Interview with Zoë S. Roy, author of Spinster Kang.

Very often, some readers conclude my fiction is a family history or a memoir. A few of them assume that The Long March Home tells my family story. One reviewer thinks Calls across the Pacific is a “woman’s historical fictional memoir.” Another reviewer says Spinster Kang “has an autobiographic feel to it.” All these comments make me feel as if I lived several lives.

In an interview from Ricepaper, a question was asked about whether the protagonist in Calls across the Pacific was based on myself or anyone else. My answer was neither. The stories I heard about “the sent-down youth” during my youth in Mao’s China inspired me to write the short story, “Yearning.” The research about the escapee evolved from my corresponding with a pen pal in Hong Kong about the successful attempts by defectors from mainland China. My walk across the bridge at the Lo Wu Immigration Control Point between Shenzhen and Hong Kong confirmed to me that my protagonist, Nina, would be able to swim halfway to reach Hong Kong.

As Alan Moore put it, “use lies to tell truth.” I invent stories to show what I’ve learned from literature, what I’ve experienced in life, and as well what I’ve perceived about other human beings in the world no matter whether they live in my era or different times.

If you’re curious about what my fictional character inspiration is, you could read “My Confession: Exploring the Intersection between Memoir and Story.”

However, I have a little confession to make: Tania, the second main character in Spinster Kang, has the two characteristics, the same as that of a friend of mine: “a retired professor” and “never married.” To commemorate this friend who passed away last month, I’m enclosing a photo of myself with her in 2016.

Zoë S. Roy visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 starting at 6:30pm alongside Joshua P’ng, Jamie Tennant, and Larry Baer. Dina Del Bucchia, writer, podcaster, literary event host, editor, and instructor, will give her talk on, “Podcasting for Fun (And Zero Dollars”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:15.

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BWS 11.11.20: Joshua P’ng

Joshua P’ng, poet and speculative fiction writer, published in the filling station, untethered, Daily Science Fiction, Sewer Lid, and the Great Lakes Review. When he isn’t writing, he sketches people on the train, reads graphic novels, and tries to get lost on bike trips.

Ahead of his appearance at our November event, Joshua shares an excerpt from a fantasy story he’s currently writing.

A Barbarus Stone

The heralding bells from Valandir tower were always bold in announcing the first morning and always making Suervath’s tusks tingle. In reflex, she gritted her teeth, pulling her tunic over her head. The bells also told her she was late to feed the pigs, promising a strike across the ears by Paleonis, the steward, and at least five coppers off her pay. 

A loud snort from the silk bed was another reminder of the other pigs that was her lot in life. A trickle of drool leaked out of the corner of Vertigus, a scion of the proud house Albian- Ablainick, who was sprawled over silk sheets, his naked belly was a full round moon rising and falling with each snore. The spurious idiot lasted longer than she was expecting. Still that even the gold-plated lamp hovering next to her head, worth far more than her father’s entire longhouse, would make last night’s dalliance worth it.

After hitching her belt up and putting on her boots, Suervath’s eyes prowled the room. It was easy to be a lay servicing the academy students, fed on cheap wine and cheaper promises. It was harder to be a profitable lay. Too little and might as well tussle in the hay with drunkards for the dregs of an empty purse. Too much and she would be out begging in the streets with a stump for a right hand. She’d only take enough to make it worth her while but not Vertigus’s while to risk embarrassment by going after her. 

The lamp could fetch her a good life for a half-dozen years was too noticeable. The heaps of scrolls and books, it was a doubt if Vertigus even read them, but they were worth more than their weight in platinum and if he didn’t miss them his father would.

It was best to start with the low hanging goods. A pouch bloated with drinking money, was lightened off a few of the last emperor’s golden faces, just enough that it still bulged but with a few wrinkles straining the cloth, laying on Vertigus’s nightstand. The jewelry in the washroom, Suervath held them to her ears, picking only those that didn’t glitter or hum with esoteric energy.

Suervath’s pouch jingled a little more heavily before the opening of drawers. Most of them stuffed with scrawled scrolls, still-fattened pens, or candied figs for growing many a noble student’s guts. There was also a dead spider in a drawer, it’s curled up legs resembled the thin black candles that the druids used to twist their own magic. She helped herself to a few of the pens, and popped a fig in her mouth. The sweet honey soaked into it exploded back out into her mouth, a taste as rare as an emerald. 

The last open snapped open. Her fingers still gripped around the silver handle, her breath fluttered. At first sight, it was just one of the many baubles, rings, amulets, or good luck charms. The hustle of Acusmit merchants that were sold with sweet-lined words of exotic esoter which ensnared many foolish noble children to gaud themselves with cheap trinkets. It was not such a trinket. It was a Reikish stone. 

It was forgivable to not recognize it at first. It had been smoothed and cut, encircled into a burnished copper grip, and strung up into an amulet. Thirty-seven white nickels were etched onto its face. Thirty-seven ancestors. A powerful stone. The closest Suervath had been to one was seeing it gripped in her village druid to start a ritual fire for moonsday. Now, this was her chance. Her fingertips immediately became warm, a flicker lit up between her ribs. 

How did Vertigus find it? The question immediately withered in her mind under the shameful glare of reality. Likely a father or uncle in the military gifting his favourite blood relative a token from the spoils of a campaign in the north. Or a fallen druid selling his clan legacy to pay off a tavern tab, that exchanged monied hands until it ended up in the richest ones. It was beautiful, and by its warmth, still flush with memories. She picked it up, pressing it deep into her palm. It was not since at least a decade ago during her ascendency ritual, that she experienced that raw bubbling of heat scouring through her bone marrow, touching every dab of her skin. Her feet arched, her head snapped back, whisperings poured out etched into her eyes; a babbling of thoughts. 

Vertigus’s moaning snapped that feeling away like a dagger through the lung. She snapped to look, but he’d only come to scratch the mountain of a belly before drifting back into his happy little stupor. The flagrant disregard for the value of his possessions was disgraceful. How could he not know of its power, a student of an imperial academy no less? 

The Reikish stone did not look any more special than the jewelry that he would tart himself with. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he even remembered possessing it. The feeling of heat still scorched her toes and the tip of her head. Suervath slipped the stone into her pouch. A goodly scatter of coppers, a thrice of gold, and a Reikish stone. Not a bad haul indeed. With a smile, Suervath made sure the door closed no louder than a whisper behind her. 

Joshua P’ng visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 starting at 6:30pm alongside Zoë S. Roy, Jamie Tennant, and Larry Baer. Dina Del Bucchia, writer, podcaster, literary event host, editor, and instructor, will give her talk on, “Podcasting for Fun (And Zero Dollars”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:15.

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Brockton Writers Series 11.11.20

Wednesday, November 11, 2020 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Joshua P’ng

Zoë S. Roy

Jamie Tennant

Larry Baer

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:15.

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

 If you’d like to donate, please do so here.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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GUEST SPEAKER

Podcasting for Fun (And Zero Dollars)

Dina Del Bucchia is a writer, podcaster, literary event host, editor, instructor and otter and dress enthusiast. She is the author of the short story collection, Don’t Tell Me What to Do, and four collections of poetry, and most recently, It’s a Big Deal!

READERS

Joshua P’ng, poet and speculative fiction writer, published in the filling station, untethered, Daily Science Fiction, Sewer Lid, and the Great Lakes Review. When he isn’t writing, he sketches people on the train, reads graphic novels, and tries to get lost on bike trips.

Zoë S. Roy is the author of three novels: Spinster Kang, Calls Across The Pacific, The Long March Home, and a short fiction collection: Butterfly Tears, published by Inanna Publications. Her literary fiction always focuses on women’s cross-cultural experiences. Besides creative writing, Zoë has also created several Wikipedia pages.

Jamie Tennant has covered music and pop culture both locally and nationally. He is the Program Director at 93.3 CFMU FM and the host and producer of the literature program Get Lit. In 2016 he published his debut novel, The Captain of Kinnoull Hill. His new novel is tentatively scheduled for fall 2023.

Larry Baer was born and raised in Montreal and moved to Toronto five years ago. Partly out of sheer laziness, he prefers writing short stories over a novel, especially stories about people coming to terms with their true selves, either through suppression or expression, and the consequences of that process.

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