Monthly Archives: February 2021

BWS 10.03.21: Andrew Wilmot

Andrew Wilmot is an award-winning writer and editor, and co-publisher of the magazine Anathema: Spec from the Margins. Their first novel, The Death Scene Artist, an epistolary horror story of body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, and self-destruction, is available from Buckrider Books/Wolsak & Wynn. For more, check out andrewwilmot.ca.

After thinking long and hard about what to write for their blog, Andrew decided to lean into the struggles and get a little uncomfortably honest.

No joke: I’ve been trying to think of what to write for this essay for a few weeks now. I could self-promote*, sure, but I’m not very fond of that at the best of times. I’ve thought about offering an excerpt from something I’ve written but lately have felt so detached from my own creative output that I simply have not been able to decide what, if anything, would be a decent showcase for my work. Also, I write a lot of body horror and that’s just not something you drop on an unsuspecting readership without warning.

I thought, too, of doing some sort of list as a fun way to introduce people to the sorts of works that make me tick—the books that have fuelled, in some capacity, my desire to write and the themes I so frequently explore. But then I realized I’m not terribly interested in offering up capsule reviews of any one thing. (But for anyone interested: read Daytripper [Moon and Ba], Hygiene and the Assassin [Nothomb], The Shining Girls [Beukes], How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe [Yu], The Inheritance Trilogy [Jemisin], and Altered Carbon [some transphobic asshole] for a solid education in all things me.)

I apologize if it sounds as if I’m rather blah about this whole thing. I’m not, I assure you. But also, I kind of am. Confused? Well then, let me introduce you to my good friend** Depression.

I’m not one to hold back re: discussing mental health. I’ve spoken many times over the years about my battles with anorexia and chronic anxiety, but I’ve not touched too much on similar issues I’ve had with depression—at least not publicly. Largely this is because, prior to 2020, it always seemed to take a backseat to the rest of the internal chaos. But the combination of finally addressing longstanding issues I’ve had with respect to my body and identity, and finally gaining something akin to stability in my professional life have helped mitigate some of that ever-present panic. Which is great, truly—I love not waking up every single day with my heart already in my throat.

But then 2020 happened, and my depression decided to kick down the door in a very real way. And a year or so later… it’s still there, crashing on my couch and not helping one iota with the rent. It’s taken me too long to recognize it for what it is, and even longer for me to reckon with how, for some time now, it has taken from me that which makes me feel most human.

Bluntly, I haven’t been writing. At all. For all intents and purposes, 2020 was the first year since probably 2003 that I just didn’t produce much of anything. It’s not even that I didn’t write; it’s that I didn’t want to write. I wanted to want to write—I felt that a lot—but the actual urge to sit and stare at a page, pen in hand? Gone.

So, what have I been doing instead? Watching things. A lot of things. Mostly horror movies. New, old, good, bad, cult—whatever I can get my hands on. Why? Because as despicable and fucked up as horror can be, it’s also my comfort food. It’s catharsis via simulated mutilation, amplified terror, and buckets of blood of all manner of quality—from “that looks way too real” to “I think this was actually just a bunch of ketchup packets.” Horror films by and large give us identifiable, quantifiable threats, often personified or portrayed in ways that are accessible and easy to understand, provided you’ve got the stomach for it. They take our fears and turn them back on us, show us what they really are. And I love them for that. Also, it’s been a good year for entertaining our worst fears. Sadly.

I’ve travelled this months-long descent into all things gory and disgusting as a means of combatting my own fears while also slowly finding my way back to actually caring about stories again—about wanting to get back to telling them and not merely letting them coast over me like so much has these past twelve months. And it’s working. I think. At the very least I feel something stirring again—a desire to plan and plot—I’m just uncertain if it’s actual desire or just this anxious gnawing in my brain informing me that I’m not currently doing enough to stay relevant.

Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s neither and I’m still figuring out how to re-light my fuse. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure. About the only thing I am sure about is my urge to be transparent—with my writing and with who I am. Because a lot of things are on fire right now, everywhere, constantly, and still so many of us feel like we have to be producing at all times or we’re failures.

But none of that is true. We are not what we produce. Our worth is not measured in book deals or story sales. I have no interest in thinking that way, though I will admit to being guilty of such thoughts, in my weaker moments. But I’ve had a year now of “weaker moments,” and I’m sick of this shit. I want out.

Why did I write this rambling screed about my mental health? Because, frankly, I had no idea what else to write. And if I’m not going to be sincere with you then I don’t know why I’m writing anything in the first place. My work is, at all times, a self-reckoning. There’s far more of me in the pages of what I produce than most people realize. And if I expect anyone to ever grapple with what I create in a meaningful way, then I have to be honest with myself, and with you.

And right now? I’m kind of a mess.

And I think I’m ready to see what comes of it.

(*I mean, I am going to self-promote at least a little bit: See here for my book, and here for an awesome little magazine I co-edit that publishes speculative fiction and poetry from queer BIPOC authors.)

(**Not actually a friend—more of a freeloading asshole that won’t take a hint.)

Andrew Wilmot, visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Gavin Jones, Natasha Ramoutarand Laila Malik. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.

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 6:30.

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BWS 10.03.21: Natasha Ramoutar

Photo credit: Matthew Narea

Natasha Ramoutar is an Indo-Guyanese writer by way of Scarborough (Ganatsekwyagon) at the east side of Toronto. She is the author of Bittersweet (Mawenzi House, 2020), a volunteer with the Festival of Literary Diversity, and the co-editor of FEEL WAYS, an anthology of Scarborough writing.

For the wonderful folks at the Brockton Writers Series, I, Adrian De Leon, had the chance to interview one of my best friends and co-conspirators, Natasha Ramoutar, author of Bittersweet (Mawenzi House, 2018), and co-editor of FEEL WAYS: A Scarborough Anthology. When you, dear reader, get the chance to hear her read, you might experience what she calls the ‘dreamspace’ of poetry, and listen for yourself the type of ethereal and speculative mood threaded throughout her art.

The brief conversation that follows is but a sliver of the kinds of theoretical and literary brilliance that Natasha weaves into her writing. Much like her poems, she takes you across space and time, through literary traditions, then back to our hometown of Scarborough, Ontario.

While Bittersweet is steeped in history, and particularly histories of migration and empire, to me, your book is a masterclass in a subjunctive poetics—that is, in imagining, speculating, wishing, and dreaming up new possible futures. Many of your poems ask questions that make the fantastical seem possible, e.g. “Is there a way to fry accents into our doubles?” (26). How does the subjunctive mood enable you to invent new types of verses? And how does your current work continue (or not) the work of speculation that Bittersweet does so well?

While particular histories of migration and empire serve as the backbone of Bittersweet, the collection is also an exercise of collaging together a lineage when personal and historical archives may be lost or suppressed. I naturally gravitated towards the subjunctive poetics because it allowed me to go beyond the limits of reality and the constraints of linear time. It felt important to place many of these poems in what I have come to think of as a “dreamspace,” where inconsistent, conflicting, or hazy timelines and stories could exist side by side.

Outside of poetry, the subjunctive mood is something that I find myself most comfortable working within. My fiction work has always been speculative, in part because of my interest in folklore and urban legends. In my current poetry and fiction alike, I continue to use the fantastical to explore and reinvent familiar tropes.

What is it about writing from and with Scarborough, our hometown, that enables you to stretch your writerly (and our readerly) imagination across space, time, continents, islands, and oceans?

On many occasions, I have heard others describe Scarborough as a “microcosm of the world.” Inside this microcosm, the chorus of voices of the suburb come to harmonize. I describe it as harmonization because that is what I have felt with other Scarborough artists – there is always a willingness to support, uplift, and collaborate. This kinship is something that enables me to feel audacious enough to stretch my imagination and take risks in my writing that I wouldn’t be confident in trying alone. While Bittersweet is technically a single-authored book, I owe a lot to our writing community in its creation.

What poets, and what writers, from the many traditions and literary scenes you’ve read, do you consider as part of Bittersweet’s genealogy?

I am very grateful to have had many literary traditions to draw inspiration from during the process of putting Bittersweet together. Books like Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman, Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return, and Carrianne Leung’s That Time I Loved You – among many, many other works – gave me a foundation to dream up different parts of the poetry collection.

What kind of future writing do you imagine your book might enable, whether in our hometown, or among audiences you haven’t yet imagined?

In the same way that [the aforementioned] texts afforded me the capacity to create my collection, I hope that Bittersweet might serve as a catalyst to further work. For me, the biggest marker of success for this collection would be if someone read these poems, felt a resonance with them, and then were spurred to work on their own art. I would like Bittersweet to be one part of larger conversations.


Natasha Ramoutar visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Gavin Jones
Andrew Wilmot, and Laila Malik. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.

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 6:30.

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BWS 10.03.21: Gavin Jones

Gavin Jones is a writer, poet, self-publisher, and educator who is based in Toronto. He is a past student of York University and author of From Suicide Kit to Liberating Liberty, a coming-of-age LGBTQ + novel about identity, sexuality, and self-acceptance. He’s also working on two other young adult fiction books and a self help guide for youth and adults to overcome emotional trauma. Gavin is passionate about working with young people, he believes in the power of storytelling to connect with youth locally and around the world. Gavin has also established a tutoring program to assist youth from low-income families to develop learning skills in the areas of high school math, English, and science. 

Ahead of his appearance at our March 10th event, Gavin shares two poems with us – the first, Cover Up, was written while grieving the loss of his mother in 2015. It was a reflection on the strength and bravery of his mother and the community of women who helped him through that difficult time. The second poem, Remember Me, is in memory of the many people who have passed away in 2020 and a reminder to their families to cherish the living.

Cover Up

Let me cover up the scars from last night.

Let me cover up the verbal filth that came from my spouses’ mouth, the rudeness from my teenage child, the abuse from the woman whose husband I’m sleeping with.

Let me cover up the scars that were left on my face, the bruises on my body.                                                                                               

Let me put on my makeup and show off my inner confidence. I’m going to let my strength come through the beauty that shows from the outside.          

Let me cover up the stains from the tears.                                            

Let me cover up those slaps across my face.                                         

Let me cover up with the strength of a woman. I am a woman. Am I truly a woman?

Am I covered up?

I have to cover up; I can’t let others see the weakness in me! I can’t let them see how my spouse and my children are abusing me. I can’t let them see the beat down from the man who is not loyal to me.

Let me cover up. Cover up years of hurt, guilt and shame.                    

Let me cover up the hypocrisy, the lies and the pain.                             

Let me cover up my own self shame and hatred to my own self.

I am a woman; an esteemed woman. A woman who holds the highest positions, a woman who manages people, a woman who is qualified more than most men. A woman who everyone talks about, a woman who walks with confidence, a woman who walks in a room and everyone gets nervous.                                                          

I am that woman, that type of woman. A woman who wears the title, miss, mam, madam, president, CEO. Dr. Professor, teacher. I am a woman whose strength become known away from home.

I am a woman who is covered up, and what does that say about me? Does it mean I’m weak because I covered up? Does it mean I’m not worthy of my title as a woman?

Woman thou woman, our lives are filled with storms and turmoil, our lives bear the scars of captured slaves. Our lives are tears, pain, hurt and guilt.

Despite our curses, despite our fears, despite our weakness, aren’t we still women in our own rights?

I hear the bickering, I hear the noise, I hear the laughter, from other women, but I leave you with this, what would they say about us if we walked away like most men?

Remember Me

The sun will never rise on my face again. A new day shall not awaken me. The sound of nature will be heard no more, for tomorrow I’ll be gone.

The folks I loved and dreamed about will rise to my ashes, and a jar shall hold all of me. I will go where the wind goes, and I shall sing what the birds sang. I will wait, wait for the day when life reincarnates and once again, I’ll become. 

Let not the empty echoes of my body frightens you, let not the teardrops of my past pain bring you sorrow. I’ve lived without you knowing me, I’ve cried tears of bitterness without you hearing me. My prayerful devotions have let me in monasteries and sanctuaries. I’ve died many times in front of your eyes and I’ve lived within your dreams. 

Wipe away those bitter tears, and pick up the pieces of your broken heart. While my soul rests for another joy, talk and laugh about the memories of old. 

Remember the dreams I’ve shared with you, remember the Joy’s we had, remember my pain and what I’ve overcome, remember me in the light of your beautiful world. Remember me in the darkest time, remember me when the shadows come, remember my tears, those loving and lonely, remember all that I am when I’m away in my new home. 

The sun will never rise on my face again. A new day shall not awaken me. The sound of nature will be heard no more, for tomorrow I’ll be gone, but I will wait, wait for the day when life reincarnates and once again, I’ll become. 

Gavin Jones visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Natasha Ramoutar, Andrew Wilmot, and Laila Malik. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.

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 6:30.

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Brockton Writers Series 10.03.21

Wednesday, March 10, 2020 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Gavin Jones

Natasha Ramoutar

Andrew Wilmot

Laila Malik

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 6:30.

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

The Business of Publishing and Inclusion

Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver’s East Side, and she now lives with her son in North Burnaby. Her books include The Conjoined, nominated for International Dublin Literary Award and a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, The Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, The End of East, Gentlemen of the Shade, The Shadow List, and Finding Home. Jen teaches at The Writers’ Studio Online with Simon Fraser University, acquires and edits fiction for Wolsak & Wynn, and co-hosts the podcast Can’t Lit.

READERS

Gavin Jones is a writer, poet, self-publisher, and educator who is based in Toronto. He is a past student of York University and author of From Suicide Kit to Liberating Liberty, a coming-of-age LGBTQ + novel about identity, sexuality, and self-acceptance. He’s also working on two other young adult fiction books and a self help guide for youth and adults to overcome emotional trauma. Gavin is passionate about working with young people, he believes in the power of storytelling to connect with youth locally and around the world. Gavin has also established a tutoring program to assist youth from low-income families to develop learning skills in the areas of high school math, English, and science. 

Photo credit: Matthew Narea

Natasha Ramoutar is an Indo-Guyanese writer by way of Scarborough (Ganatsekwyagon) at the east side of Toronto. She is the author of Bittersweet (Mawenzi House, 2020), a volunteer with the Festival of Literary Diversity, and the co-editor of FEEL WAYS, an anthology of Scarborough writing.

Andrew Wilmot is an award-winning writer and editor, and co-publisher of the magazine Anathema: Spec from the Margins. Their first novel, The Death Scene Artist, an epistolary horror story of body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, and self-destruction, is available from Buckrider Books/Wolsak & Wynn. For more, check out andrewwilmot.ca.

Laila Malik is a diasporic desi writer in Adobigok, traditional territory of the Wendat, Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Métis, and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. She has been published in Contemporary Verse 2, Canthius, The New Quarterly, Ricepaper, Qwerty, Room, Sukoon, and the Bangalore Review, and was a finalist for Creative Non-Fiction Prizes with the Fiddlehead, Humber Literary Review and Event Magazine.

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